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Beware of Spyware and Adware

"Computer users should have the security of knowing their privacy isn't being violated by software parasites that have secretly burrowed into their hard drive."
--U.S. Senator Ron Wyden

On This Page:

What Is Spyware?

Spyware is surveillance software that is installed on a computer without the user's knowledge. If it is on your computer, whoever controls the spyware can gather information about you. You may not even know that spyware is on your computer -- it's bundled with games, screensavers, and peer-to-peer file-sharing programs including Bearshare, Kazaa, iMesh, Grockster, Limewire, and many more.

This Spyware Process Map indicates the process for responding to spyware issues at the University of Michigan.

Why Is Spyware So Dangerous?

Spyware can compromise the security of your computer by collecting data about the e-mail you send, the Web sites you visit, and the business you conduct over the Internet.

  • Keystrokes you enter in a browser window, which could include your passwords, banking information, credit card numbers.
  • Your Web-based e-mail - both message content and e-mail addresses.
  • Web pages you access and all data on each Web page, such as data you are authorized to view in Wolverine Access or your other accounts.
  • Your instant message exchanges.

How to Keep Spyware Off Your Computer

Use these safe computing tips to keep spyware off your computer:

  • Be cautious when you download games, screensavers, Internet accelerators, or when you download or use peer-to-peer file-sharing programs. Many of these programs come with spyware and other "third-party" software included. Because spyware is bundled with unrelated software such as the Imesh file sharing program, you may not realize that this software is running on your machine.
  • Open the following Web page in a browser. It will tell you whether or not spyware is installed on the computer you are using:
    http://www.itss.umich.edu/itss-bin/proxycheck
  • Install or upgrade to McAfee VirusScan 8 to remove spyware from a Windows 2000 or XP computer. The U-M license agreement provides this software at no cost to members of the U-M community. You can download VirusScan 8 from the U-M Virus Busters Web site.
  • Install an antispyware and an antiadware program:

What to Do if Spyware Is on Your Computer

Use one of the following methods to remove spyware if it is already installed on your computer:

  • Install Spybot-Search & Destroy software. It can detect and remove many different spyware applications.
  • If you have installed McAfee VirusScan version 8, you can go to the McAfee Web site and use the instructions on how to use VirusScan 8 to remove various types of spyware.
  • Follow these steps to use Windows 'Add or Remove Programs,' to remove spyware:
    • Click Start, select Settings, and open the Control Panel.
    • Double-click Add or Remove Programs.
    • Locate the spyware installation you want to remove, highlight it, and click Change or Remove.
Important! After you remove spyware, be sure to:
  • Change all passwords that you use to access services or accounts. Tips on choosing a safe password.
  • Check U-M's Identity Web to learn how you can protect your identity.
  • Use the safe computing tips in the preceding section, "How to Keep Spyware Off Your Computer," to keep spyware off your computer.

U-M Resources if You Need Help With Spyware Removal

If you need help with spyware removal, contact the computer support staff in your unit. In addition to this ITSS information about spyware, the following U-M resources are available to help U-M students, faculty, and staff.

More Information About Spyware and Related Problems

Other Spyware Information

Other Universities' Spyware Sites