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Using SpyBot to protect your computer

Sign of danger for your computer!

Another sign of danger!
I am sure this has happened to all of us at one time or another. While happily surfing we are suddenly confronted with the notorious "blue screen of death" (BSoD as in the example here), with the ErrorSafe or Drive Cleaner logo (as on the right) or with all kinds of repeated pop-ups that appear from nowhere. More often than not it also causes your browser to hang. What does this all mean? It simply means that you've been the victim of some kind of adware, spyware or malware.
This is what the anti-virus company Symantec says of ErrorSafe:
ErrorSafe is a Security Risk that may give exaggerated reports of threats on the computer. The program then prompts the user to purchase a registered version of the software in order to remove the reported threats.
So what exactly is spyware? This explanation comes from Spybot: Simply, spyware is software that transmits personally identifiable information from your computer to some place in the internet without your knowledge...Spyware silently tracks your surfing behaviour to create a marketing profile for you that is transmitted without your knowledge to the compilers and sold to advertising companies. If you see new toolbars in your Internet Explorer that you haven't intentionally installed, if your browser crashes inexplicably, or if your home page has been "hijacked" (or changed without your knowledge), your computer is most probably infected with spyware.
However ErrorSafe is not alone in bombarding us with unsolicited publicity that quite often causes our computer to crash. There are a number of other similar sites, such as Drive Cleaner and WinFixer.
This is what Symantec says of DriveCleaner:
DriveCleaner is a misleading application, which gives exaggerated reports of security and privacy risks on a computer. The program then prompts the user to purchase a registered version of the software in order to remove the reported risks.
In fact some trojan horses from spyware could even go into your email contacts list and use those names to send you spam email making you think that they really came from your friends. I myself had even received emails purportedly coming from myself!
Now that you know the signs of such an attack the thing to do is to download the free Spybot program or to give it its full name SpyBot - Search & Destroy or the equally free Ad-Aware in order to detect and get rid of the spyware that have already found their way to your computer. In fact to be even safer you can have your computer scanned first with one, then with the other.
Once you have downloaded and installed it just click on the Spybot-S&D button on your desktop to make use of it.
But before you run it for the first time click on "Search for Updates" and click on the "Download updates" button. Don't be surprised if this takes 15 minutes or so. As with all anti-virus programs it is most important that it is up-to-date or new spyware might not be detected.
You are now ready to make use of Spybot-S&D with the full assurance that no spyware will escape the test. To start the detection test click on "Check for problems" and let the program begin its scanning (it might take from half an hour to over an hour so it's best to do this when you are going to do some housework or cook or watch a film on TV.
When it has finished its work it might come up with a list of "problems" like this. Yes, what you see on the right is my own share of spyware today (the red entries represent spyware threats). With the results in front of you, you now need to study them before asking Spybot to take action on them. You do this by clicking on the small plus sign in each of the elements in the list. If it is something strange to you then leave the tick on. From past experience I find that I should leave the Microsoft Windows Security registry entries alone so I unticked them to indicate that I don't want Spybot to take any actions on them before clicking on "Correct the problems".
Before removing the spyware it will normally create a backup so you can undo any changes in case it removed something that caused your computer to stop functioning correctly.
You will see a table like the one here (on the left) when the whole process is over and the spyware removed. When you restart your computer you should not be bothered by such unwelcome intrusions again - that is, until the next attack!
But apart from uninvited pages popping up all over your computer screen another source of spyware is pornographic sites. Anyone who has used a search engine will tell you that a search for an innocent word or the downloading of songs can sometimes lead you to a pornographic site. If this happens you can be quite sure that some spyware has already entered your computer through a cookie. So at the first available opportunity you should run your Spybot-S&D or Ad-Aware in order to remove them.

(Updated on August 8, 2015)
Spybot's start button is called "Start Center".
Unlike the previous occasion this time the results were only in green - there were no red entries! This means that I didn't have spyware or other really threatening malware. But as you can see from the first screenshot of the results below I do have a number of cookies or other "usage tracks" that could be dangerous. So I might as well have them all removed by Spybot.

But other results concern the registry keys of Windows as well as other programs that I have installed (see next screenshot below). As a rule all the browser cookies, cache and history items can be removed without any danger but unless you know what you are doing, it's best to leave Windows registry keys and Windows registry changes alone. Windows might not restart if some critical registry keys are removed! So be warned.
As for the registry keys of programs that you have installed they pose less of a problem if you should allow Spybot to remove them too as you can always reinstall a program if need be.
So look under "Description" and "Type" and untick those that you don't want Spybot to remove before you click on "Fix selected". By default all the items are ticked so if you don't untick any of them, all will be removed. You can see from the screenshot below that I have unticked all Windows registry keys and registry changes in order to be on the safe side.

Once you click on "Fix selected" Spybot will start removing the items that have a tick on them and then display a page that shows you all the items where action has been taken.