by Suzi Batta
I recently went to Google to do a search and was affronted by a series of pop-up ads. I could not believe that my favorite search engine had sold out to commercialism. How could this be? I was angry and in a state of disbelief.
I was just about to send Google an email complaining about their new advertising policy, but instead, decided to do some research. Someone else must have complained about this and written an article about it, so I did a search on Google for for 'pop-up ads on google'. What I found surprised me.
The first result, 'No Pop-up Ads on Google' at http://www.google.com/help/nopopupads.html shed some light on the subject. Seems that Google had not sold out, in fact, they find pop-up ads annoying. The article explained several scenarios as to why you would encounter pop-up ads at Google.
In my case, my husband had downloaded a supposedly 'free software program.' This 'free' program is supported by ads and when downloaded also installs some very ingeniuous ad programs that act like viruses. They 'piggyback' and install themselves onto your computer. They also refuse to GO AWAY!
So the first kulprit was Kazaa, the 'freeware' for listening to music. I found out that you can get the leaner version of Kazaa, called 'Diet Kazaa' that does not come with all the hidden downloads.
There are several free 'anti pop-up' programs out there -- BEWARE. These programs claim to get rid of pop-up ads and bombard you with their own advertising message. I had to manually go through my harddrive to find the advertising viruses (aka adware, spyware, thiefware programs) hidden within my computer. I found several programs including SaveNow, Gator, WhenU.com, WurldMedia and Cydoor, these are just a few of the programs that are bundled with the installation of the 'free' software. You unwilling download them onto your computer when you accept the licensing agreement of the freeware.
After several attempts at trying to uninstall these programs, some come back with a vengeance. They have additional installation programs that reside within the hidden files on your computer. When you reboot your computer, they re-install themselves to track your activity and record sensitive information on your harddrive.
I downloaded a free spyware detection product from http://www.lavasoft.de called Ad-Aware. This program scans through your system to find and quarantine these programs. The problem is that you have to continually run checks and remove the programs each time you use your computer. Another free spyware detection program is Enigma Software at http://www.enigmasoftwaregroup.com (Thanks to Steve, one of our readers for this recommendation). As I said before these spyware programs refuse to go away, so don't expect miracles.
So, what's the remedy? Well, I am sorry to say that I haven't found it yet. We did get the latest version of Norton AntiVirus that has been doing a good job of suppressing the adware. There are several features on the software where you can turn on/off added security including privacy control, ad blocking, intrusion detection and spam alert. Norton seems to be doing a good job of keeping the screen clear of unwanted advertisements.
The site Counterexploitation, http://www.cexx.org is a good resource for finding and removing spyware programs from your computer. The site offers advice and tips on removing various programs, but it takes a bit of tech savvy to follow the instructions.
My best advice is to make sure you have the latest version of anti-virus software on your computer and stay away from freeware.