There's an rapidly increasing problem with little programs that are designed to latch onto Internet Explorer -- only Internet Explorer at the moment, simply because it's by far the easiest to exploit, not that there's any reason malware couldn't be written for other browsers -- and do anything from silently spy on your online activities and report back, to hijacking homepages and search requests, to stealing important information like credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other similar information that may be entered into the computer.
Getting rid of these little buggers can be anything from very simple to having to format the system and reinstall because they've replaced key system files. You can find plenty of tips on getting rid of these things by searching these forums or posting over in the Virus and Security forum.
That's only half the solution in my mind. The other half, is instituting some policies that dramatically reduce the chances of malware getting onto the system. To that end, I've borrowed some wonderful tips, elegant in their simplicity, and will post them at the end of the message. If you follow these guidelines, your risk of malware infestation drops to near zero, though they are completely optional. Just remember that your risk level goes up with each guideline you choose not to follow. But enough of the doomsday talk, here are the guidelines:
1: Don't use, with the lone exception of getting new security patches, Internet Explorer or any browser based on Internet Explorer. Make a choice between Opera or Firefox, and avoid IE like a diseased animal that should be put down
2: Avoid using Outlook and Outlook Express
3: Avoid all file sharing programs
4: Avoid all pirated programs
5: Make sure to keep current with all security updates which Microsoft tends to release every second tuesday of the month. It's the one and ONLY time you should be using Internet Explorer
My grandchildren come over and search for myspace on the computer I let them use. They get a gray page with orange text that has nothing to do with anything. I don't really want them on my laptop. It happens with yahoo search, google search, and the address bar.