Your computer is spying on you
Spyware could be sharing your secrets with the world. To find out how you can fight it, CLICK HERE.
Hundreds of people could be watching what you do, sharing information about you with the entire world.
An estimated 80 percent of all computers do it. Investigative Reporter Kristin Stinar shows us why most people don't even know it's happening and how you can protect yourself.
Have you noticed your computer not working as well as it used to? Does it slow way down, especially when you're surfing the web? Do you find yourself inundated with popup after popup after popup?
Don't throw it out. It's probably just an infection. And believe it or not, the cure can be easy and even free.
For Rebecca Neuhoff, surfing the web is hit and miss.
"More miss than hit. Definitely," she said.
Sites she used to visit with no problem now don't come up at all.
"This only happened in the last six to eight months," she explained.
Rebecca's computer is infected with spyware.
They’re tiny programs tracking her every move online and bogging down her computer.
"Some are very nuisance based. Others are actually looking for data to transmit out to their parent or host,” said Eric Frydenlund of Computer Integration Technologies, Inc.
They can transmit data like passwords and banking information. It’s the kind of stuff that can let someone steal money or your identity.Thankfully those are the exception.
"Most spyware is simply reporting back to its home base what your browsing habits are...to get a picture of what the average person the internet is doing,” said Ron Gabrielson of The Geek Squad.
Others are like the infection Frydenlund diagnosed at a Saint Paul law firm. They often come from innocent sites hijacked by spies. In this case, he traced it back to a youth hockey message board.
"The popups related to that website were very pornographic,” said Frydenlund.
But it doesn't always take a trained professional to fix the problem. A 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Producer worked on Rebecca Neuhoff's computer.
Using a program available free on the web he found dozens and eventually hundreds of spyware. "Oh look at 'em. We're a disaster!" said Neuhoff.
That program cleaned out more than 700 bad files. Another took out dozens more. And for the first time in months, Rebecca could pay her credit card bill online.
Below are links to several spyware programs. The experts tell us you should use more than one because they don't all catch the same stuff.
Ad-Aware (free version available)
Spybot Search and Destroy (free version available)
Spy Sweeper (subscription required for updates)
Microsoft AntiSpyware (Beta)
Article that explains the software options