At PC Handyman Professionals, we understand and advise that protection against virus/trojans and the like isn’t the whole protection you need. There is also SPYWARE to consider.
So what *IS* spyware?
The answer to that gets muddied further every day, usually by people who don’t understand but sometimes by the actual spyware itself.
Spyware is generally a program that spies on your machine, you, your wanderings on internet or worse, your passwords to whatever place you go that requires a password. You do online banking, you say? You note that you have a HTTPS connection and if using Internet Explorer you get the little PADLOCK icon that both signify the data you are sending is encrypted (and please note that not all data received is encrypted at some sites). So, you think you are fully protected, yes? OK let me put this scenario to you. You are at your banking site and you are about to enter your username and password. While some banks have a third level of protection other than username and password, some don’t. So you type (example only):
....and then you hit enter or click whatever the name of the button is that means that the data just typed is transmitted to your bank for verification and yes, all was encrypted. What you *DIDNT* know is at some time prior to going to your online banking site, you had been infected with a "Key Logger". What such programs do is watch whatever key you tap on your keyboard - and in later iterations of this spyware, even the keys you click on an on screen keyboard rather than your normal keyboard - and this data is transmitted not only to your bank but to someone you don’t know, somewhere else in the world.
So what do they do with it? You hear the details of what such people do, every so often, on your TV in the news. Someone's $20,000 or whatever amount, that was there before they logged on, is no longer there yet they didn’t withdraw it. So what happened to it? The person who infected your machine with a key logger actually logged on using the data you send to the bank and transferred that money to themselves. That is what happened to it.
"Oh but surely that is the BANK'S fault for not protecting my money, not mine, so they HAVE to repay that money to me!" right? NOT RIGHT! Your machine was infected by someone else, with a key logger. This was NOT done at the bank's web site so they bear no fault in this. Why SHOULD they have to pay you back that lost money? If you drive your car beyond its design limits and outside of the laws, is the manufacturer of your car or the government authority who maintains roads in your state to blame because your car left the road and is now damaged? No. Similarly, if you get your machine infected by viruses or spyware (which can often act similarly) which transmits your username and password to someone else and they drain your account, YOU are to blame. The bank MAY decide to recompense you for that loss but if they do it is good will only and there is no compulsion for them to have to make good on what happened when it was nothing to do with them.
So what can you do to avoid that? First off, I have to admit to advising people NEVER to use online banking as there is no way I could honestly say it is safe. Having said that, there are banks that offer a third alternative. Some banks send you a device that you use at the time of logging on. You provide your username and password then use that device and you are in. Without that device it is almost impossible for most key logging software operators to get into your account as most of them don’t possess the I.T. skills to go that bit further. Some do, though. Some banks have the ability to SMS (text) you a once per session password to your mobile phone - which, as you can well imagine, is useless if your phone battery is flat and you can’t recharge it, you live in a bad reception area, your SIM card is damaged or your mobile phone carrier is having problems right when you need that SMS information.
The best option, should you still want to use online banking, is to make as sure as you can that you don’t have any spyware on your machine. AVG Antivirus free edition actually does look for a lot of spyware but not all of it. You can also use Malwarebytes Antimalware to get rid of a lot of it but again almost all of it, not all of it. There is also Lavasoft's "Ad-Aware" which does a great job of getting rid of your nasty spyware but unfortunately it does show false positives and it also slows down your machine a heck of a lot when booting. Nevertheless, if you are bound and determined to find something you suspect is on your machine, download that program, install it, update it, run it, remove anything found then uninstall Ad-Aware. You can also use Spybot Search & Destroy.
If you have done all those things and still you think something is going on with your computer, you need to contact PC Handyman Professionals by using the CONTACT form to the left or phoning us on 0410-478-279.