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Microsoft SPYWARE Alert!

Spyware and your kids

Are your kids exposing you to spyware?
Published: January 5, 2005

If your computer starts to suddenly slow down or you begin to see pop-up windows, even when you’re not browsing the Internet, you may be the victim of spyware and other unwanted software. Spyware is software that is automatically downloaded to your computer without your notice, and is often attached to another file you have chosen to download or install. Spyware can also be downloaded to your computer when you click on banner ads on Web sites.
The types of unwanted software programs that kids accidentally download are usually annoying and may slow down your computer, but are typically not dangerous.

If your children regularly use your computer, they may be visiting sites or downloading files that could be exposing your computer to spyware and other unwanted software.

Types of downloads that may contain spyware

  • Free games downloaded from the Internet
  • Music, movies, and other software file-sharing programs downloaded from the Internet or from other computers
  • Animated characters for your desktop
  • Free screen savers downloaded from the Internet
  • Toolbars for your Internet browser
  • Free pop-up blockers that appear on your computer when you are online

Not all of the programs listed above will contain unwanted software. The key to helping prevent the installation of spyware is to download programs only from sources you trust and to read all security warnings, license or user agreements, and privacy statements associated with any software you download or install on your computer.

Encourage your kids to ask your permission before they download anything from the Internet. If you’re not sure if the program they want to download contains spyware or other unwanted software, ask a knowledgeable friend or enter the name of the program into your favorite search engine and see if anyone else has reported that it contains spyware.

Tip: Think you may have spyware on your machine? Learn some of the common signs of a spyware infection and find out how you can remove spyware. You can also download the new Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware (Beta) software to help protect your computer from spyware and other potentially unwanted software.

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“Mom, Dad—I promise I didn’t download anything”
Sometimes your children may accidentally infect your computer with spyware or other unwanted software without even knowing they’ve downloaded anything. Some popular sites for kids may try to download programs without your kids even asking for them. Your children may see a warning notifying them that a Web site wants to download a program. They may click random buttons on the window just to get it to disappear. What they click on might just be “I agree.”

If you don’t think your kids understand what it means to download programs only from trusted sources or if you think they probably won’t read all the warnings and agreements that appear while they’re surfing the Web, you may have to take a few extra precautionary measures with your home computer. Read How to help keep your kids from downloading spyware to learn more.