Is it possible for someone to monitor your computer when you are online? The answer is probably yes. By using a couple of programs, you may be able to locate the spyware that may be installed on your computer.
A program named Spybot Search & Destroy is available for a free download from www.safer-networking.org. This program will check your computer for more than 10,000 settings for spyware, dialers, and other security threats that you may not be aware even exist on your system.
Some of these threats are nothing more than cookies that have been placed on your computer by the Web sites that you have visited. They are used to keep information such as your zip code so that they can give you the weather forecast for your area. Others may be dialer programs that can connect you to an overseas number in the middle of the night to run up your phone bill. Still others may be used to force-feed you advertisements as you surf the Web.
A virus checker will search your computer for trojans and worms that may be used to report your online activity or to cause problems on your or other peoples computers. Depending on the type of virus, the removal and recovery may take just a few minutes to many hours. It is also possible that your entire hard drive may be so infected that the only recourse is to erase the drive and start from scratch.
The virus files are quite often sent as attachments (files) in your e-mail, though Windows XP has a security flaw that will allow a trojan to be installed while you are online. Microsoft has issued a number of updates lately to correct the problem and are available from the Windows update site.
If you go to the Web site www.whitehouse.com, you will end up at a porno site. The correct address is www.whitehouse.gov. Unfortunately, if you entered the other site in error, any pictures that you may have seen will now reside on your computer. They are usually in the temporary Internet files folder where they will eventually be deleted; otherwise, you may want to install a program such as Cleansweep to delete these files when you exit Internet Explorer. You can also delete the pictures by searching for *.bmp, *.jpg, and *.tif. Most of these pictures will have nonsense names such as ab123.jpg, top.jpg. If in doubt, double-click and view the file.