Identity Theft Prevention:  The Beginning - How does it get on our computers?

  Spyware manages to get on our computers in many ways.  See below:

a) Email - an attachment may be infected, like a joke, although the most prevalent method is the ever popular "virtual card".  We've all received them.  Someone sends us a Birthday Card or the like, through a website, with a cute cartoon greeting.  We "play" it and Bob's your Uncle - you're infected.

b) A Drive-by - you surf to a website that takes advantage of a security hole in your browser (Internet Explorer 6/7 or Firefox, etc).  The unscrupulous website deposits a small piece of code (usually a Trojan).  That small "program"  then accesses the internet and downloads more parts and voila, you're infected.

c) Free Software - You've found a free utility on the internet and it seems useful so you download it and install it.  It secretly contains spyware that installs along with the useful software.  The most common form of this type of infection is Peer-to-peer software (to download music, usually). 

d) Pop-ups - you're browsing the internet and a pop-up window appears telling you you're computer is either infected with a virus or the like and to "click here" to "clean" your system.  You do so thinking you're doing the right thing and bingo, you're infected.  In some instances the pop-up suggests you download their "anti-spyware" software, and this software itself is the spyware.

e) Instant Messaging - things like MSN Messanger, My Space, etc. can be a "channel" for spyware to find its way on to your computer.  The methods are somewhat complex, but effective.

f) Other methods include port assaults, but these are less likely.  Your computer has over 65,000 ports (openings that are slightly secure).  They are all available through the internet.  Occasionally someone figures out how to "hack" through a port and thus can deposit anything onto your computer.

It is easy to see how, with so many different assault points, that spyware is so ubiquitous.

How can we protect ourselves?  We will cover that next week.  Be sure to and come back.
In the meantime you may want to look at our Usefull Links.  Some rather interesting things there.