Pop-ups, More than Just an Annoyance

Pop-up removed by bursting…Find someone who is not annoyed by pop-ups, and you will have someone who is not an active ‘Net user. Most of us know the drill. You are enjoying visiting some interesting websites and the small window pops up right on top of what you were formerly happily viewing. You close it but another appears. Close it and yet another materializes.

However, beyond just being annoying, pop-ups often pose a real danger to a PC and ultimately it’s users, be they adults or children. They often act as “portals”, causing the user to accidentally download hazardous software, like adware and spyware, right to the hard drive. Once installed, these sinister invaders silently start collecting volumes of information about the user. They can record the websites visited, how long the user remains on the ‘Net, login and password data, and possibly even credit card information. If children are active users, their viewing patterns and other personal information, may now be at risk. Obviously, much of this information could be used to target additional pop-ups to the PC or even to steal your identity.

Is there an effective way to protect yourself against this dangerous threat? Yes, but no method is perfect. There are numerous anti-pop up software titles available with different levels of security and, therefore, success. It is important realize that pop-up software designers are constantly developing “new and improved” methods of gaining access to web browsers, and through them, to your computer. As new vulnerabilities are discovered, new attacks quickly become possible. The many free programs available today provide some help but cannot block all possible intrusions of pop-up secret entry software. Commercial software varies in effectiveness.

Another way that sometimes safeguards your PC is to use a browser other than Internet Explorer. Firefox and Opera are to of the most popular alternative web browsers. How does this help? Pop-up software must be “coded’ differently for each browser. Spyware designers naturally want to reach the most people possible to maximize their information stealing effectiveness. Since Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is the browser used by the majority of PC users, most of the malicious pop-up software is written for this browser. Hence, there are fewer varieties of malicious software written for other browsers. Using an alternative browser won’t completely prevent pop-ups, but if used in combination with a decent blocker, many pop-ups will be eliminated.

But what about those pop-ups you WANT to see? Like information from your bank, college bookstore, trusted shopping sites, or other favorite pages that use “good” pop-ups as part of their normal operation. Good pop-up block software will alert the user (usually at the top of the page being viewed and just below the toolbars) that a pop-up is being blocked and asks you if you want to allow it to be shown.

While no pop-up defender is perfect, to better protect yourself and your children, install a pop-up blocker and/or use an alternative browser to minimize the threat. Download an anti-adware and anti-spyware program also to identify the threats that will no doubt be successful in getting to your hard drive. These protections will give you the power to remove the malware.

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