Spyware – Free with Download.

Posted by on Mar 15, 2015 in Frugal For Everyone | 57 comments

Did you knspywareow that many downloads and apps, especially the free ones, may invite spyware into your computer? My computer has just come back from a checkup. It had been acting up for the past month, running slow, freezing up, blocking access to sites, etc. What was discovered was pretty scary, at least to me. There were 78 pieces of spyware found.

Norton anti-virus is installed on my computer which I thought protected me from all dangers. While it is an excellent anti-virus program, it DOES NOT STOP SPYWARE. Did you know that?

I’m still having trouble with the whole idea of others being able to access my computer without consent, but then often that isn’t even the case. Do you read the Agreement terms? The biggest mistake we make when downloading something is not reading the agreement. They are generally so wordy that we just go ahead, click agree and download.  This may give spyware criminals actual permission to add to or alter your computer files.

Spyware criminals embed stealth packages of dark code on sites we visit – news, shopping, etc. and that allows them to enter your computer unchallenged through out of date software. Don’t ask me how they can do that, but they can. Keeping all software and programs updated is crucial.

So how do you get spyware on your computer?


  • Download free apps, including money-saving apps;
  • Download free music, videos and games;
  • Dating sites;
  • Jokes that are attached to emails;
  • Other email attachments from people you don’t know.

The only one that I’m guilty of is the first one – I do download money-saving apps and learning/information articles, but only from what I believe are trusted sites. Yet I ended up with all that spyware.

What are some of the things that can result from this spyware?

  • Annoying Pop-ups – some could be for recommended downloads from fake Microsoft sites or other sites we trust. To download anything, go directly to the site itself. For instance, if you want to download something you believe comes from or is recommended by Microsoft, go to Microsoft.com – never click the link on the pop-up;
  • Phishing emails – Reminder here: No reputable business, bank, finance company, police department or government agency will contact you by email or via the Internet;
  • Request for money, whether it’s payment for a fine or to help a sick friend or you’ve won a prize and only need to pay shipping, NEVER give money to anyone you don’t personally know and trust;
  • Worst case scenario – Identity theft. Use of your bank account, credit cards and credit information and even your reputation. It’s important to change all your passwords on a regular basis.

What can you do?

If you’re not sure whether or not your computer is infected by spyware, have it checked by a reputable computer tech. The cost is minimal compared to what could be happening on your computer. Have your tech recommend and install a really good Malware program. I now have Malwarebytes anti-malware, premium. It will cost you a little, but if it keeps you and your identity safe, it is well worth it. What Malwarebytes does is alert you when another site or computer is trying to make changes to your computer.

Here is a link to a site that has further interesting information:   http://static-cdn.malwarebytes.org/assets/datasheets/2015-03-09/exploit-kits-infographic.png

It was rather shocking, to say the least, to find all this spyware on my computer. However, if writing about my experience can alert others to the spyware problem it will at least have a positive twist.

Talk to you again next week,


Both Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. Yep, I’m aware of that and very careful.

    Sometimes even anti virus companies download spyware and viruses to your computer.

    If you use Windows it’s essential to always download the updates to Windows Defender. Once in a while you download an updated removal tool that removes all the threats automatically.

    But there’s a limit to how much we can protect ourselves. Try changing the settings on your browser to not allow third party cookies and you will swiftly find out what happens. Did so recently and within an hour had allowed cookies from third parties again.

    • Catarina, that comment about anti-virus companies downloading spyware is interesting. My neighbour just told me she had her computer checked and the computer tech put spyware on her computer. Unbelievable. Thanks for the Windows Defender tip – I’ll check into that one myself.

  2. The same thing happened to me last year Lenie and I was as shocked as you! Like Catarina, I have found windows defender to be effective. Though, it does make one feel violated, right?

    • Hi Jacquie, you’re right about feeling violated – it also makes you feel a bit jittery about downloading anything. I just signed on with the course from Jon Morrow and I was actually a bit nervous about that until I reminded myself who he was. Anyway, I have just finished updating Windows Defender and according to it, my computer is behaving the way it should.

  3. Thanks Lenin. I wasn’t aware of all of this information, but I’m always cautious about downloading Apps. Will definitely be looking into protecting minemail and reading the Agreements.

    • Hi Bola, I think not reading the agreements is probably one of the biggest problems but if you see them you find they are difficult to understand anyway so it stops you from reading the next one. But I will take the time from now on to read them and if I can’t understand them I think they have something to hide so won’t go there. Awful, isn’t it that we have to be worried about stuff like that instead of just enjoying our browsing?

  4. I meant Lenie.

  5. Lenie I soooo get this. Last year when my NetGear specialist was trying to troubleshoot a wireless problem we were having I let him take control – I trust those people. He couldn’t do a darn thing. I had been living with the slowness thinking, “well my laptop is about 6 years old.” That had nothing to do with it. He tried his best to start cleaning things up but suggested I take it to a reputable computer company for a check. When they told me I had 72 spyware programs on my system (your 78 topped THAT!) I was astounded. But thinking back I think I identified the exact download responsible. My problem was I had let Norton expire. Just plain not thinking, I know. But now almost a year later, it’s still running smoothly and fast. Whew, dodged that spy! Great post Lenie.

    • Hi Pat, isn’t it shocking when you first hear them tell you that you have that much spyware on your computer. I just looked at the guy thinking this isn’t possible – but now my computer runs fine so I guess it was. I’m glad you got yours resolved too. I know I will certainly be more careful at what I download but at the same time I want to enjoy my computer and not become paranoid.

  6. Great info, Lenie. Yes, I knew there was lots of spyware lurking out there. Sometimes it is so overwhelming, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing the link you did. Interesting timing, as I am taking my laptop in because it is running so slowly, too. Hope they don’t find a bunch of spyware!

    • Hi Laurie = Isn’t it awful how much spyware is out there. I hope they don’t find anything like that on yours because it really is a bit creepy that someone is keeping track of what you do. But at least, you are taking it in now and if there is anything it will be found. Good luck.

  7. Lenie- I would suggest to anyone to have their computers checked every 6 months. With all the new viruses that come out no one program can keep up with it. I also use Malwarebytes anti-malware, premium as well as AVG AntiVirus which is free or you can update to the Pro version. You never know when you may accidentally click onto a site and the games begin. When I get an email I do not recognize I delete it. Many of the problems come from downloading spyware from emails.

    • Hi Arleen, that 6 month checkup sounds like a great idea – you’re right, there are just too many people trying to access our computers, whether through spyware or viruses – makes you a bit angry having to deal with that but it is a fact. I never open emails from people I don’t know either and I sure don’t open attachments. The one thing I was a bit careless on was keeping things updated – I guarantee I won’t be from here one.

  8. Lenie, what an unpleasant experience. I have SpyBot on our computers (along with Symantec anti-virus) – I do work for a university, so I feel fortunate to get updates through them. But one never knows! Always something, especially in the tech world.

    • Hi Leora, I did not realize that Norton Anti-virus did not protect against spyware and I wrote my post because a lot of my readers are just your everyday people who just want to enjoy their browsing. I’m thinking they may have anti-virus programs installed that they believe protects them against spyware. Maybe this will alert them and hopefully get them to install a malware program if they haven’t got one. (Well, that was wordy).

  9. Well that’s just plain rude! I use a pretty pricey protection system and it is supposed to block spyware, malware, etc., for the price I hope so. But I have to say since I started using it about 2 years ago I haven’t had a single problem (knock on wood!). Thanks to alert us to this issue Lenie, it’s definitely something to be proactive about.

    • Hi Marquita – I get a lot of satisfaction researching sites and writing my blog and I just find it disturbing that total strangers can follow my every move. I’m glad you haven’t had a problem over the last couple of years. I know my malware program is working because this morning I had an alert that ‘conduit’ had tried to enter. They never give up.

  10. It really is disturbing how much spyware is out there. And while we may feel that our anti-virus is protecting us, nothing catches 100%. It is really sad that there are so many people who spend their lives trying to invade other peoples lives. A lot of times they do it just for the thrill of causing problems. I have the spyware that my highly reputable computer tech recommended and I still think my computer acts funky sometimes.

    • Erica, you touched on something that really has me puzzled. You mentioned that people invade your computer for the thrill of causing problems. Why would they get a thrill out of it if they can’t see my reaction? Where’s their fun in that? Strange. But when it comes to computer security I guess getting good programs installed is the best we can do.

  11. It is shocking to realize how much spyware is out there. I never open things in emails from people I don’t know or that looks suspicious from someone I do know. But a lot of things come from what we access online. I use AVG Antivirus and Spybot. Your post is a good reminder to double check everything.

    • Hi Donna, while we are so careful, I guess it’s things we access online that provides the way in for these spyware programs and those sites may not even realize that they’re doing it. I guess securing your computer with a good malware and virus program is the best you can do. I’m going to take Arleen’s suggestion and have my computer checked every six months.

  12. Your article has seriously made me think. I am wary of opening emails from people I do not know.

    • Hi Phoenicia – it isn’t just emails – after all this, when I opened my computer this morning there was an alert from Malwarebytes that ‘conduit’, a tracking program, had been stopped from entering my computer and I never opened an email yesterday.

  13. Hello Lenie

    Your post really helped me to know the problem that I am facing. I did not think it can be spyware . I do not download music or anything but my daughter is all time watching cartoons on different sites, so I think that can be the reason.

    We have IT section in work place and all time they are updating laptops. But it is also a head ache of giving them laptop for days and sit having nothing in hand.

    My laptop have antivirus but now there are few pop ups that are disturbing me. They are in Arabic language and you will be surprised to know that my daughter and I remember them.

    Thank you for a great post.

    • Hi Andleeb, I had no idea that I had spyware on my computer and finding out I had 78 of them was a real shocker. If I were you I would take advantage of the IT people at work and have them take a look at it. We really do get attached to our laptops, don’t we? Those pop-ups sound like trouble.

  14. This is a never-ending battle. I use software called Hitman Pro in addition to my regular anti-virus software. I downloaded Hitman Pro after I found malware that my anti-virus software didn’t catch.

    • You know Ken, I don’t think everyone is aware that the anti-virus program doesn’t protect you against all spyware. I know I didn’t. Obviously you had an unpleasant surprise too. Glad you’re protected now, at least as well as can be.

  15. This is a great article Lenie with a message that needs to be told again and again. We tend to forget lessons we have heard and this one is a biggie. Glad you didn’t have too much of an issue and were able to get it resolved. I to am going to look into the Windows Defender program.

    • Tim, Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just go online without having to worry about any of that nonsense? I’ve already had 2 alerts that ‘conduit’ has been trying to access my computer. With a name like conduit it was probably the gateway to all the other spyware programs. I did check Windows Defender and for some reason it was turned off – so I turned it back on and did a scan.

  16. Wow, this is disturbing and important information Lenie. As a blogger, the worst thing I can imagine is my computer crashing! I’m going to look into this. Thanks for sharing.

    • It really does make you angry that people can watch what you’re doing, doesn’t it Meredith? I know I’ll be more alert to possible problems from here on. Hope everything is fine with yours.

  17. I’m so glad I run only Mac products. I switched in 2007 and it was the best tech decision I ever made. Even still, I agree with Arleen that regular check-ups at the tech shop are a good idea — for any computer.

    • Doreen, do Mac products not get infected with spyware – if that’s the case I know what my next laptop will be.

      • I also switched to a Mac about five years ago. I was surprised when I ask them about what virus protection to download that they said it wasn’t necessary–that the Apple firewalls are so good they can’t be invaded. I remind dubious because I am paranoid about such things, but had the Mac checked last summer and they didn’t find anything at all on it!

        That said, I get crazy when I search something –whether on Google, Bing or Duck Duck–and then ads for that item continually pop up. So I know my searches are being tracked even if not maliciously.

        Great post, Lenie.

  18. Hi Lenie

    Yep, there are Spywares on the internet.

    I have Windows Defender and avast antivirus on my laptop and this is no guarantee that my PC will be totally free. So I am always careful of where I am downloading my apps. Avast does help check if the site you are downloading from is safe.

    As for antivirus companies installing spyware, this is true so you need to check the review of the antivirus before installing on your PC

    • Hi Ikechi – that information about antivirus companies installing spyware is really shocking – I certainly hope that the better known ones don’t practice this. It’s amazing how the Internet has brought out all the criminals – the thing is for them to be smart enough to enter your computer they would be smart enough to have a great job.

  19. It takes quite a mind shift to become comfortable with this new paradigm. May we never get that comfortable, though. Thanks for sharing this. It is always good to be awake and aware!

    • Sue, I think many people have become comfortable and complacent about cyber-safety. We instal security programs and then just forget about it as we go on browsing. Maybe one day we’ll get a computer that is so safe that no one can get into it – let’s hope.

  20. Lenie, your post has wonderful information. I never knew that information was on the agreement page; who reads that? The Phishing Scams are the worst, they make their emails look almost exactly like the companies they say they represent. Plus, they keep sending you the mail as if it’s urgent. I had one sent from Wells Fargo (my bank) notifying me of my password change, it read: “If you didn’t make this change click this link” I called my bank right away. Tricky devils.

    • Pamela, calling your bank was the smart thing to do – unfortunately there are too many people who just click the link. The whole thing makes me angry and I just wish these people would get a life. Those agreements are a perfect way for criminals to enter your computer, as you said, who reads those. We just click and basically OK guys, come on in.

  21. Oh my god, it is scary, Lenie!

    Though I heard a lot about these spywares in the past, I never really paid much attention to these.

    This is the first time I read about the issue in detail. thank you for this..

    My old laptop is showing some signs of what you have mentioned here. Need to contact a computer expert soon.

    • Tuhin, I was really shocked when I found out I had so much spyware on my computer. Unbelievable, and what’s more, there is nothing on my computer that would interest anyone. I use it for my blog and that’s pretty well it ——–oh well, if they’re going to be tracking me then I guess their lives are even more hohum than mine.

  22. Lenie, I use Norton 360 which also includes Power Eraser which I run every couple of months. Nothing worse than spyware. Unless it’s a tuxedo.

    • Hi Kire – Norton 360 is what is on my computer but I don’t do the Power Eraser thing – may have to check out how that works. And you’re right about the spyware – actually to me it’s worse than the tuxedo.

  23. Ugh. I think we’ve all been down the spyware road in varying degrees. I use a paid version of MalWare Bytes to help with those types of issues and the free version of Avast anti-virus. The free Microsoft security essentials software isn’t very good. I didn’t download any icky annoying stuff for a long time and then recently seemed to click on stuff like four times in a row. I finally ended up reformatting my computer myself to scrub it clean, but it took forever to reinstall everything. The really sad part was the virus I got made it so an agent couldn’t take remote control of my computer to fix it as part of the extended warranty I bought and the nearest Microsoft store to Boise is in Salt Lake and I couldn’t ship it in. Lesson learned, don’t click that download button on most things and just fix it yourself if you can 🙂

    • Jeri -wow, I’m so impressed that you were able to reformat your computer yourself. I’m so technically challenged that all I know how to do is turn it out and type. It is hard not to click download though if you found an interesting article and want to print it off. I don’t like reading from the screen but may have to learn. I’m glad yours got going again.

  24. Wow Thanks Lene, I had no idea of all this information. I have to get mine checked out ASAP.


  25. Thanks. I will be checking my computers when I get home.

  26. Everywhere you go, FB, Twitter, and software products track us, then they sell our information to advertisers. People were enraged when they found out that the NSA was following our movements on the web, but where is the outrage about companies doing it? People seemed to have accepted the fact that companies can do this to us, I have not. Our privacy is gone, and people let them take it away without a fight.

  27. I know. It’s annoying but that’s part of what we have to deal with to use the internet. I use a Mac and that helps some.

  28. It’s great that you’re sharing this Lenie. It is truly chilling how easily our devices are violated, along with our privacy.
    Everyone from Facebook, advertisers and our governments partake in these viruses and spying.

  29. My father recently had to deal with a malware problem; his situation was worse than yours in that malware choked his PC to the point that he couldn’t access the Web at all.

    When you think about it, it is kind of weird that there are very bright people out there who seem to have nothing better to do than sit around and find/exploit vulnerabilities in Microsoft products, but such is the way of the world.

    Doreen and Rose are right: If you want to minimize your exposure to malware, then getting a Macintosh is the way to go. (Full disclosure: I am a ‘lifetime’ Mac user who has been using Macs since the late 1980s. If you do switch to a Mac, I predict that you will be won over by its ease of use and will say, “I should have done this years ago.”)

    • Hi Andy – this is the first time I have heard about Mac being safer to use than the PC. My laptop is about 10 years old now so this may be the time to start looking around.
      I hope your father got his problem resolved. It is so annoying – and for us non-techies very frustrating and costly.

  30. Hi Lenie. I’ve fallen victim to spyware, and it’s not a fun situation to be in! Even with a yearly package of Norton antivirus, I get bombarded with alerts from fake sites suggesting that my computer’s protection is outdated. It’s very important to do your research, so that you don’t panic and fall for the trap. Truly disturbing what the malware companies do with your personal information once collected.

    • Hi Tatia – you’re right about the use of information collected by the malware companies. It’s scary what they can do. I do know, as a result of these comments, that my next laptop will be a Mac. Apparently they are impossible to breach. The extra cost would be more than offset by not having to pay for cyber protection of all kinds and the peace of mind.

  31. Hi Lenie; great post. makes me want to take my laptop in and have it checked. i recently installed avast on my mac and it found a virus and several files it couldn’t scan. but i receive a lot of attachments from people submitting amusement equipment photos and videos so i may need to go in for something for mal ware even though i am using a mac. thanks for sharing and for the reminder to stay vigilant, max

    • Hi Max – from what I’ve read and heard in the comments, when you have a Mac, you don’t need to worry – their firewall stops everything. Before you go to any expense it might be worth checking that out first. Maybe the attachments do call for extra protection. Anyway, no matter what, I think your word vigilant is the right one – always stay alert for those bad guys.