by Terry Currier
I have used and like Ad-Aware anti-spyware from Lavasoft (www.lavasoft.com) for a some time now and I felt it was doing a good job. Iíve tried Spybot (http://www.safer-networking.org/en), but after it locking up my system trying to update I took it off. I made another effort at trying it after seeing the reviews at spywarrior.com, and now it is working okay.
In looking at other anti-spyware programs I came across Spy Sweeper from Webroot. Iím familiar with some of the companyís other programs and liked them so I thought I would try it. My son wanted to play me some online game through AOL. It required me to install a program. Spy Sweeper came up with a warning say the program from WildTangent was a known spyware. I told it to go ahead and install the program. When done with the online game I uninstalled it through the Windows Control Panel. I then ran Ad-Aware to see what it would do. Even after the uninstall there were still some trace of WildTangent which Ad-Aware found. After all that it was Spy Sweeperís turn. It ran and found there were still some remnants of WildTangent hiding in the registry. I was truly impressed, and could see that Ad-Aware was not enough.
You can get spyware from many place and never realize it, and Iím not just talking about cookies. Spyware includes adware, keyloggers, Trojans, system monitors, browser hijackers, and dialers. Keyloggers being the worse since it captures keystrokes it can capture personal information like your social security number, bank account numbers, passwords, or credit card numbers. It can come from software you install and not know what it is really doing. With the WildTangent I did read the license agreement and it even stated they would install applications commonly called spyware. Most will not read the long statement. Just visiting some websites or opening spam mail can cause you to have spyware loaded onto your computer.
You can download a 30 day trial version to see how you like it. When you do, it gives you the first updated download of spyware definitions. As of January 2005 that was 49,000, (May 2006 that was about 130,000). You can download further definition updates during that 30 days. After that you must subscribe for further updates. It will remove and defends against spyware and adware installations as they happen. You can schedule regular scans or perform one manually to find and remove spyware and adware from your PC. Found spyware and adware is put into quarantine disabling them. From there you can hold them to make sure everything still runs correctly, delete, or restore them. I like that it gives you information about the file, such as were it is located, what type of file it is, and what it does.
Going through the Options setup the is a check box option for adding Sweep option to Windows Explorer Content Menu. Choosing that is a good option. I can right click on any folder (such as my downloads folder), or file and have it checked for spyware, without having to wait for a full sweep.
Look at the Shields module. Spy Sweeper will put up a barrier to help protect you from future spyware attacks. It stops unwanted changes to your browser settings such as homepage hijacking. If a change is attempted whether by some spyware or you, a Spy Sweeper window will popup and ask you if want to allow the change. There is also shields for memory, Windows Messenger, Startup, and more.
The only negative thing about is would be the amount of resources it uses. Loaded up at startup it uses 25k. While doing the sweep it recommends you shut down everything else. Spy Sweeper is $29.95 renewal is $29.95. www.webroot.com
From Sunbelt Software it does also the scanning for keyloggers, Trojans, system monitors, browser hijackers, and dialers. Trend Micro had a anti-spyware program on their website which I downloaded a trial version and ran it. It said one file had a beagle virus. I found it interesting that an anti-spyware program found a virus. So I ran my anti-virus program and it said there was not a virus. To be sure I downloaded a special file from Symantec to get rid of the virus. It also reported there was no virus. It was a file which my firewall caught trying to get to the Internet and blocked it. Spy Sweeper did not report anything. When I ran CounterSpy it reported the file was a keylogger (ooh ooh.) By the way Trend Micro no longer has a anti-spyware program.
CounterSpy sets up for you to do scans, and sets up Active Protection on the computer. When spyware is found it is displayed allowing you to see details of the threat found. There are descriptions of the files found, risk ratings per threat, and a recommended action to take. From there you can remove, ignore, or send to quarantine.
Active Protection monitors and secures certain areas on your computer. It monitors 9 checkpoints for Internet, including Wi-Fi connection so see if someone else is trying to access your network. For System monitoring there are 24 checkpoints including watching for changes to Windows DLLs, preventing files from loading up upon startup, and monitoring the Windows Host file. With Application monitoring there are 23 checkpoints from monitoring for additions of downloaded ActiveX applications through Internet Explorer, to additions to your Internet Explorer BHOs (Browser Helper Object). Which by the way are two things which only ConterSpy can do according to www.spywarewarrior.com.
When you click on the Scan Now button it performs a quick scan which takes a short period of time, or you can tell it to do a deep scan. The deep scan is very through is and will take a while. So be sure to give it plenty of time. The good news is that you can still do other things while it runs. They donít say, but I would not run any heavy resource needing program while the deep scan is running. Iím actually working on the article while it is running. I will add that it only takes up 13k at startup.
System Tools module comes with extra utilities for the user. It will give you information about your Applications, Internet Explorer, Networking, and System. Applications will show Downloaded ActiveX, Internet Applications, Running Processes, and Startup Programs. You can actually control the processes through CounterSpy. Definitely take a look at what is running and in startup. CounterSpy does a very good job of showing what is running, better than just looking at the Taskmaster (through Ctrl-Alt-Delete). If you still question what program you have running bring up google and do a search on it. More than half of the time it will bring up www.liutilities.com for you to look at. They are the creators of WinTask probably the best program to tell you what each program you have running does.
History Cleaner will remove all history usage of Internet and most popular Windows and Internet applications. You can go in and select from 75 different activities you want cleared. There is also a Secure File Eraser which is a complete data destruction and removal tool. Any files deleted by it are completely and irreversibly removed from your computer. My PC Checkup will do a scan of your computer and make suggestions of how to tighten security settings.
You can download a 15 day trial version to see how you like it www.sunbelt-software.com. The cost is $19.95 with a one year subscription for updates, upgrades and technical support. After that renewal cost is $9.98 a year.
You canít lose with trying either Spy Sweeper or CounterSpy, and highly recommend doing so. Ad-Aware, and SpyBot work well to get cookies and most spyware items off your computer. Spy Sweeper, and CounterSpy though do a better job and put up protective barriers to block them. I think blocking them is better than removing them after the fact.
You may have heard that Microsoft brought the Giant Company, an anti-spyware developer, and will bring out a program of their own. You can download Windows Defender beta 2 version from http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx. Actually Giant and Sunbelt had been partners for several years. The Giant Antispyware code is co-owned by Sunbelt. According to Sunbelt they also co-own the definition updates going forward to 2007
From our March 2005 newsletter
Winners is a member of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG) is an international, platform-independent, nonprofit corporation (incorporated in Washington, DC) devoted to helping user groups throughout the world. Almost 400 user groups are members of APCUG. http://www.apcug.net/