The Spyware Problem
Spyware is a huge problem. It seems that if you own a windows computer, you own your fair share of spyware. Spyware is software that is designed to grab your data and send it back to the company that wrote it. This information can range from your browsing habits, to passwords and credit card companies. Another function of spyware is to turn your computer into a drone, a computer that can be used remotely to hide the nefarious doings of dark side of the internet. There are remedies, and they are free, but the problem is that their not easy.
The first is to change your browser. Using the web means using Internet Explorer, right? Wrong. Get off Internet Explorer as fast as you can. It is specifically targeted by all but a handful of spyware programs because of its market share and its security holes. Changing to another free browser like www.getfirefox.com will be a good place to start. You may experience some problems. Firefox is may not be supported by your bank, or tax office and some pages may look strange. This is a problem with Internet Explorer not Firefox. The internet is comprised of standard which dictate how pages and security should be handled. Internet Explorer flaunts them all, but because of its market share, most web designers try to make their pages work with IE. Another problem is start up time. Internet Explorer is inexplicitly linked directly to the core of windows. This massively improves its start up time , but makes it a huge security nightmare.
The next thing to do is change your browsing habits. The internet is not a safe place for the uninitiated, just like cities are not a safe place. You have to think before you click. Pressing just one OK, when you should have pressed Cancel can mean that your internet connection is sent via a premium rate number, or that a piece of spyware is installed. Read every message, and ask yourself if it sounds safe. In general anything that asks you to make that page your homepage, asks you to vote, or offers to fix your computer is going to break your computer. In general, click cancel not OK, it probably safer.
Find a surfing buddy. Because of the security problems, you have to learn how to surf the net and if you have no interest in becoming a geek, the best thing to do is find one who will get you through your first few sessions. This will probably save you a fortune in the long run, both in time and maintenance.
Finally get yourself some anti-spyware software. This is the last line of defence, similar in operation to anti-virus software (you do have anti-virus software don't you). This goes against my previous statement, you have to download and install some software. Consider this the exception to the rule. www.safer-networking.org is the home of Spybot. It might not be the best, but it does work and it is free.
But why am I writing this on a Mac page? If you've got this far you probably have a spyware problem and are looking for a fix. The best fix for spyware, that means you don't have to worry about any of these problems is to buy a Mac, or get Linux. In fact get anything but Windows. The chances are that if you are thinking about using Linux you probably know all of this already. If this was new to you, get a Mac.