I. What's the Worst-Case Scenario?
Put quite simply, the worst-case scenario when you're dealing with a spyware infection is that you just plain can't fix it. No matter how many times you run a spyware removal tool, the pop-up ads keep coming back, and the removal tool keeps finding new infections on your computer. Maybe you've even taken it to a local computer shop or to a knowledgeable friend, and they're stumped as well. Once you've reached this point, you're
left with two choices:
Live with the way your computer is behaving, as-is, or
Reinstall your computer's operating system.
Even though that second option sounds extreme, there are some very important reasons why you should consider it, if you've run out of luck removing spyware any other way. For one thing, if there's a keystroke logger installed on your computer, every day that you leave it on your computer is another day that a hacker might be intercepting your credit card
or other personal data. Or a hacker could still have a "back door" into your computer without you even
it. Think of it this way: if somebody
your house key, you'd change your locks, right? Well, what if your front door had three million locks on it, each of which opens with a different key, and you weren't sure which key got stolen? Reinstalling your computer's operating system is often the only way to be sure that you've "changed all the locks" so that hackers can't access your computer or your private information anymore.
On most computers, it's actually pretty simple to re-install the operating system: most major manufacturers like Dell and HP will provide a "Quick Restore" utility that will
your computer and bring it back to its original "out-of-the-box" configuration. That's the easy part, of course. The hard part is making sure that your data is protected in case you need to go that route. We'll
the remainder of the book discussing ways that you can do just that.