A columnist for the Los Angeles Times wrote the story of his experiences when his computer was hijacked by adware and spyware. It’s a good summary of the pervasiveness of the problem and the difficulty of recovering once the bad stuff is on your system. Here’s a link to the article, and here’s the web site that came to his rescue with good analysis and advice.

It is virtually impossible to be online today and continue to have a smoothly functioning computer unless you’re running Windows XP with Service Pack 2. I continue to deal with computers taken down by adware and spyware almost every day. I can’t stress it enough: replace the old computers and update the Windows XP computers! Here’s my notes about adware and Service Pack 2.

You’re not out of the woods after Service Pack 2 is installed. You’re unlikely to have adware installed behind your back after your system is updated, but you can still be tricked into putting it back into place. I worked on a Service Pack 2 system recently that had the same old stuff on it after the owner installed a free “haunted house screensaver” for Halloween. Many “free” programs are financed by deals allowing marketers to surreptitiously install their popup programs along with the main product.

Don’t install free stuff on your computer unless you are absolutely, dead certain that it will not hurt you. I’m well aware that there are many wonderful free programs! Sorry, but paranoia is your friend. If you’re not completely sure, don’t put your computer at risk!

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