A few days ago I got one of those dreaded phone calls from my sister. It went like this:

sister: “My internet is broken”
omar: “Huh?”
sister: “When I launch Internet Explorer it quits right away”
omar: “Uh oh. Did you do anything unusual the other day?”
sister: “I saw this pop up dialog thing, and I clicked something, and since then it stopped working”
omar: “You are 0wn8d”.

Seriously, I freaked out. Being 3000 miles away and being the technical life support for my family, extended family, friends of friends etc meant I could not use Remote Assistance to fix the problem. I thought of a variety of things she could do but ultimately decided that she needed to salvage and pave her machine. What a pain.

However, I went to some unrelated web page that day and it said that if you are experiencing a problem where IE unexpectedly quits then you have spyware and to go here. Great web site. I was able to direct my sister to our (Microsoft's) toll free PC Softy hotline (866) PC SAFETY where she got someone on the phone to help her out. Sadly because she didn't have an internet connection she could not download the anti-spyware tools. So she went over to my parents, burned Lavasoft Ad-aware and Spybot Search & Destroy (S&D) which nuked all the badness from the machine. I asker what happened and she said that they cleaned up a million things.

Spyware should be illegal. Users like my parents and my sister don't know any better, and Windows does a poor job of protecting them. Having said that the site and tools (and PC Saftey) are fantastic.