Adware and Spyware Removers
 What's a Firewall
Avoid Infection
We're infected!
Spam and Spyware
Disaster Recovery

Articles & Reports

HELP! I think we have a Virus.
        Choosing anti-adware and anti-spyware Scanning Programs

"How Safe is Your Success" is a series of eight articles by Bill Hely which address different aspects of a universal problem of particular importance to all of us who use the Internet — our online security. Mr. Hely covers the area between the bare basics and more technical details so clearly, that I have placed his article about Adware and Spyware here, word for word, for all of us to experience.
.. Richard

                         Adware and Spyware                   
Part 4 of a series of Articles titled "How Safe is Your Success?"
                                                                  By Bill Hely

 Adware and Spyware

In Part 3 of this series I stressed the importance of having an anti-virus package installed on your PC, and the extreme importance of keeping it current with updates from the publisher of the package. Unfortunately, many people who do appreciate the need for such precautions fail to make an important distinction - one which leaves them exposed to threats they mistakenly believe they are protected against.

You see, while a good anti-virus program can detect and deal with many variations on the virus/trojan/worm theme, it can't handle all variations. An anti-virus program is a good start, but you can't stop there. Into your defensive line-up you must add a few more specialized scanner-type programs to catch some of the threats the anti-virus program can't handle.

It is beyond the scope of this short article to delve into the differences between virus, trojan, worm, adware and spyware - nor is an understanding of the characteristics of each necessary in order to effectively combat them. For the more curious reader, my book "The Hacker's Nightmare" deals with all threat types in some detail. It is however important to appreciate that:

   (a) All variations are extremely prevalent;
   (b) There are differences between each type of threat;
   (c) There can be further (sometimes significant) variations within
        each category;
   (d) There is no single antidote that will protect you against all of the

You may recall from Part 3 of this series that, for the average home and small business computer, I generally recommend against the all-in-one security suites that purport to protect you from a multiplicity of threats, so in that context point (d) above is a valid observation. My reasons for that recommendation were presented in the previous part in this series.

Don't worry! The fact that we need several somewhat similar programs in our arsenal isn't going to impact the bank balance to any significant degree. As I pointed out in the previous article, many of the very best solutions in this threat category are quite free, and even those that aren't are usually very inexpensive. That's even more fortunate than it at first seems. While the programs I use and recommend are extremely effective, they aren't perfect. Sometimes you need to install two competing programs of the same type, because often one will catch intrusions that the other won't, and vice versa. These programs are invariably quite small and don't place any significant load on the computer, so the extra protection is very worthwhile. A good example of this multi-application recommendation is adware/spyware detection.

Until very recently the usual recommendation from "those in the know", myself included, was to install two anti-adware scanners:
Spybot-S&D and LavaSoft AdAware. Why two? Well, it has been observed over time that no single anti-adware application would ever detect all the infestations of this class that could be lurking on a PC. Those two programs were widely considered to be the best of their type, and together would detect the vast majority of adware problems.

I have no doubt that those were once well founded assumptions --- but things have changed. Adware has become more sophisticated, new detection software has appeared, and some of the "old faithful" developers have failed to keep pace.

It wasn't until quite recently that a qualified independent undertook to conduct thorough head-to-head testing of all the major anti-adware scanners. Eric Howes of the University of Illinois compared and tested more than 20 of the most popular and best respected anti-adware applications, against hundreds of adware threats, and the results took a lot of us by surprise.

AdAware SE came in 3rd and Spybot-S&D was equal 7th. Not too bad, you might think, for a couple of free programs, but the disturbing thing was the actual detection figures. Spybot detected a mere 33% of the hundreds of adware components tested for, and AdAware didn't fare much better at 47%. Those two combined, a combination that is usually recommended, could only come up with 54% of the total infections.

This is not the place to discuss the findings in depth, but
I do need to give you new recommendations based on Howes' research.
Giant AntiSpyware (See Sidebar) had a detection score of 63% and Webroot Spy Sweeper was next best with 48%. Combined they had a rate of 70%, by far the best of any possible combination of two packages.                       6.05

Giant Software was acquired by Microsoft in December 2004 and their version of the software that was tested by Howes is now called Microsoft AntiSpyware. At this time it is a free download. Webroot is a commercial product, but very inexpensive.

Microsoft AntiSpyware
Webroot Spy Sweeper

[ Some of the detection percentages quoted above were compiled from Eric Howes' raw data by Brian Livingston, Editor of "
Windows Secrets" newsletter, one of the subscriptions I have long recommended in "The Hacker's Nightmare". You can subscribe at: ]

All such software provides a number of configuration options and, as you may remember from the anti-virus article, if configuration options are offered you should take that as a strong indication that you won't get the most out of the application until you set those options.

Like your anti-virus program, it is extremely important that both
Microsoft AntiSpyware and Webroot Spy Sweeper are updated regularly with new database information from their respective websites.

The strength of applications like those just discussed is that they are very good at finding, identifying and eliminating certain types of nasties that have found their way into your computer - threats that your anti-virus program is probably not designed to detect.

There is another very important tool in this category that I always have installed on my PC's. Called
SpywareBlaster from Javacool Software, this utility does not scan for and clean out spyware - rather, it's job is to prevent such threats from ever getting installed in the first place.

SpywareBlaster is available in a free version for non-commercial use, but I do not recommend the free edition even if you do qualify. Like the other applications we have discussed, SpywareBlaster must be regularly updated. While the free version can be *manually* updated at any time, it has no provision for auto-updating. For a paltry US$9.95 per annum license fee, you can have the very significant advantage of scheduled auto-updating. Remember, such applications are only as good as their last update, and you certainly don't want to be relying on old data for your protection.

By the way, do you have a friend or three who would benefit from this series? Why not eMail them right now and recommend they go straight to and subscribe to the series themselves.

In the next part we'll look at a threat that is becoming very commonplace and which can cost you dearly - the so-called "phishing" scams.

If this newsletter has been passed on to you by a friend, please subscribe to it yourself so you can be sure of receiving the next part in this series, when I'll show you how to keep your sensitive electronic correspondence completely confidential, even if someone does manage to intercept your eMail.
                                                        .... Bill Hely

Bill Hely is a technologist, consultant and author living in Brisbane, Australia. For most of the last two decades his professional focus has been on advising and supporting small business operators in Information Technology and Office Productivity issues — and rescuing them when they didn't heed his advice the first time around. He is the author of several books on technology for the business operator, including the Bible of Internet and computer security "The Hacker's Nightmare". For more information on this must-read tutorial and reference visit: http://TheHackersNightmare                   6.05
Subscribers to our
 Security Alerts News Reporter will be alerted when other parts of Bill Hely's series of articles are posted to the Articles and Reports section of the Firewalls-and-Virus-Protection website.
                                                                                   ..... Richard 

                                Return to Articles and Reports >>

Subscribe to our
 Security Alerts  News Reporter
for periodic updates on  the latest events and
 issues affecting your  personal security

We Value Your Privacy

Click Button - Get your FREE report
"23 Critical Security Alerts"

 from the subscription
 signup page


   | To Top | Avoiding Infection | Infected? | Recovery |
Virus Hoaxes | Cookies & PopUps | SPAM & Spyware
Identity Theft | Articles & Reports HOME/Firewalls
|Survey | Blog| Virus Removal Tips |

                            Maintaining your Computer System health is our Goal
                                      Help Spread the word about our
                              'Computer Security Awareness Campaign"



  Latest Virus Threats


Editor's Comments

As of the posting date for this article (June 2005), Microsoft AntiSpyware will probably not be available for users of Win95, Win98 nor WinME. It is planned to be available for users of Win2000 and WinXP
and future  MS Operating Systems
Mr. Hely certainly presents his work in a clear and easy to understand manner.

His "The Hacker's Nightmare™" is just as easy to follow and understand as is his article on "Adware and Spyware Removers" which I hope you have just read.

I believe that every single user of an Internet-connected Windows computer NEEDS the kind of valuable helpful information found in
  " The Hacker's

 You no longer have to be an IT expert to have access to this knowledge. Now this essential information is yours --- in a language you can understand and in a format you can easily put to use for yourself.

Order your copy of the book today by

  I'm certain that
 you'll be as pleased
   with it as I am.


.Check Out the
 Security Alert BLOG
 Add your comments and opinions to ours

It's also available by
RSS feed - Click Here

Copyright © 2004-2005 , by All rights reserved | Home | Contact | Privacy Policy