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Spyware - Don't download until you've read this!!


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magiccrack avatar
Posted: Tue Sep 04, 2007 05:08
Author:
Spyware is getting worse and becoming more capable at evading detection. The latest threats are better than spyware from just a few months ago at taking over your browser, monitoring your online activities and stealing your personal information. Your current anti-spyware program may no longer be as effective at combating spyware.

That was the bad news, the good news is spyware removal tools are constantly improving to take on the challenge.

An entire new range of products and updates were used for this review to take on the latest spyware threats head to head. The group of products used in this review included three paid anti spyware tools consisting of - Max Secure Software's Max Spyware Detector, Paretologic AntiSpyware, and Stopzilla!; and three free products-- Lavasoft's Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition, Microsoft's Windows Defender, and Safer Networking's Spybot Search & Destroy.

These tests were used to determine how these programs combat both spyware and its less evil but incredibly annoying cousin adware.

These two types of online threats are often used interchangeably but are really quite different. Spyware in some forms can be very dangerous and installs itself quietly often downloading other unwanted programs and sending out personal information without your consent.

Adware on the other hand, is to blame for all the annoying popups, false error messages, and other unwelcome advertising that is clogging your PC.

In real world terms spyware can be thought of as a stalker quietly collecting your personal information without your knowledge only to use it against you one day while adware is like telemarketers and door to door sales people who barge into your life uninvited with their sales pitch.

Spyware and adware samples were collected and used to infect a lab of 6 Dell computers and then each of the spyware removal programs were tested to determine their ability to scan, detect and delete the rogue files.



The Results: Top Picks

Max Secure Software's Spyware Detector removed 96.2 percent of the spyware and adware infections claiming the highest removal rate and helping to make it the top pick among the paid spyware removers. Equally impressive is its ability to quickly and accurately scan the infected PCs.

Using a patent pending SmartScan technology, Spyware Detector was able to complete a full system scan in under 2 minutes (1:33) while Microsoft's Windows Defender took an agonizing 1 hours 1 minute and 47 seconds to finish a full system scan. The speed was so astonishing (and frankly unbelievable) several scans were run to verify the results. More information will be included below.

Out of the free anti spyware programs, no clear winner emerged. If for whatever reason, you don't want to pay for spyware protection, your should definitely use more than one free program to increase your chances of adequate spyware protection.

The biggest disappointment came from Microsoft's Windows Defender. It managed to remove only 60% of infections and while this is the lowest rate of removal out of the free spyware removers the best performing free anti spyware program faired little better with Spybot only removing 70% of infections.



The Results: Eliminating Infections

To effectively remove infections, spyware removers must be able to detect and stop spyware processes that are actively running in memory. Translated from geek speak, what this means is that at all times there are programs and processes running on your computer that you don't notice. These are not like programs such as your e-mail client, web browser or word processor but rather things that must run in order for your computer to function properly but go otherwise unnoticed.

Creators of spyware know that few people are aware of such processes and are very unlikely to figure out what they all mean and do. This makes it easy for them to slip rogue and infectious processes onto your PC without drawing any attention. An anti spyware program that does a poor job of eliminating spyware processes running in memory is next to useless as it will only be able to detect the most basic of spyware and adware infections.

Spyware Detector was the only program that removed 100 percent of the running processes followed by Paretologic Antispyware, erasing 91 percent.

Several of the spyware programs used to infect the test machines altered Internet Explorer's home page, search page, browser helper objects (BHOs) and toolbars, and Trusted Sites Zone and each spyware removal software's ability to correct these unwanted changes were tested.

StopZilla! and Spyware Detector did the best job of detection and cleanup, removing 100 percent of the BHOs and toolbars embedded in the test PC's browser, as well as reversing all of the browser start- and search-page changes. Paretologic Antispyware corrected 76 percent of the BHOs and toolbars, but they failed to completely deleted some of the files associated with these programs.

In addition to eliminating all BHOs and toolbars, Max Secure Software's Spyware Detector outperformed all other software tested in detecting and removing commercial keyloggers. These programs monitor, record, and send out all of your computer activity, web sites visited, emails and instant messages, logins, credit card info and pretty much anything else you type or access on your computer.



Preventing Future Outbreaks:

An increasingly important component of spyware removal tools is their ability to prevent future spyware and adware infections.

This is accomplished by using what monitors that actively keep watch on your computer for signs of files and processes that exhibit suspicious behavior similar to known spyware and adware programs. When such activity is detected the process is killed and an alert is sent to you to let you know about the suspicious behavior.

Spybot, StopZilla!, Spyware Detector, Paretologic AntiSpyware, and Windows Defender, all offer some behavior-based protection. Spyware Detector and StopZilla! were the most accurate at detecting and alerting potential spyware problems with Stopzilla! catching 70% of infections as they were installed and Spyware Detector capturing an impressive 90%. Adaware SE Personal edition comes with no real time protection capabilities.



Ease of Use:

The next factor reviewed was ease of use and how simple it was to remove spyware from each system.

Once again Max Secure's Spyware Detector rose to the top. Its interface is very clean and extremely easy to use. One of the nicest features of Spyware Detector was the one click access to their advanced support feature. By clicking a single button you can generate a copy of the spyware scan results and send it directly to their spyware removal technicians for analysis.

This made it very easy to diagnose and remove the more complex spyware infections on the test machines. Within 24 hours a fix specifically tailored to the spyware problems was created. StopZilla! also offers this capability but it was buried deep in their options and sub menus making it difficult to find and easy to overlook if you were not sure what to look for.

Even less impressive was Spybot S&D. While the basic default interface is indeed easy to use and designed to make it as easy as possible to scan and detect spyware problems several of the more useful features are available only in Advanced mode such as schedules scanning, real time protection and automatic live updating settings. It would be very helpful is these items could be added to the basic mode.



Saving Time: Getting Back To Life As Usual

No matter what you do, you can't get your time back so anything that can automate and speed up complex, tedious tasks is a good thing which is what make spyware removers so great.

For the final test how quickly each program completed a spyware scan was measured. This was done for each program's Quick Scan and Full Scan capabilities.

To make things more accurate each scan was run 5 times for all the programs and in the process uncovered something very interesting.

The more times a scan is performed with Spyware Detector, the faster the scan completes.

Spyware Detector's quick scan was completed in 59 seconds. Impressive indeed but nothing compared to Paretologic's Antispyware which completed a quick scan in a mind numbing 12 seconds. Compare this with the next fastest quick scan time of 2 minutes and 40 seconds by Adaware-SE and the slowest time of 8:06 by Spbot S&D and you begin to wonder if the program is actually doing anything.

Yet when tested the full scan, the same results occurred. The initial scan took longer but each scan thereafter was blazing fast compared to the competition. Paretologic's Full Scan took 1 minute and 12 seconds just edging out Spyware Detector's scan time of 1m 33s. Next up was Spybot S&D at 8:06 and last place was Windows Defender at a snail's pace of 1 hour 1 minute and 47 seconds.

The scan times are so fast and disproportionate to the rest of the field, videos of the overall top choice, Max Spyware Detector in action are included below demonstrating how the scan times get faster with each subsequent scan.

Note: StopZilla has no ability to perform a system scan at all and relies completely on real time protection capabilities.

The War Wages On:

Spyware is a growing epidemic that constantly evolves to avoid detection and stay one step ahead of the spyware removers. To stay relevant, spyware removal tools must also constantly adapt and change to meet the challenge head on. As new tools and updates are released, new tests will be performed to make sure you have the most effective tools to combat the latest and nastiest threats.

You can view test results and related comparison charts below along with the testing methodology.





Editor's Top Pick

Overall Spyware Detector is the most comprehensive spyware removal application in these tests.

It is fast, effective, up to date, and packed full of features that will help you finally eliminate your spyware frustrations

Test Results: Spyware Detector Out Performs the Competition

The group of products used in this review included three paid anti spyware tools consisting of - Paretologic AntiSpyware, StopZilla! and Max Secure Software's Spyware Detector; and three free products-- Lavasoft's Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition, Microsoft's Windows Defender, and Safer Networking's Spybot Search & Destroy.

The programs were tested to see which would remove the most infections from the test bed of spyware and adware programs.

Max Secure's Spyware Detector took top honors eliminating 96% of the files with Paretologic AntiSpyware coming in second removing 87% of the spyware.

How The Test Was Conducted: Testing was done with 6 2.5-GHz Pentium 4 Dell Dimension PC's each with 1GB of RAM running Windows XP Professional, Service Pack 2. Over 2 dozen different spyware and adware programs were used to infect the test PC's. Each machine was infected with the same samples and was used to test one anti spyware program. Each spyware removal program's ability to detect and effectively remove these components was then tested.

It must be pointed out that each program categorizes and sets up their detection databases differently to arrive at their count totals.

What this means to you is that while Max Spyware Detector shows a total of 252,282 different entries at the time of testing it does not necessarily mean it has 4 times the capabilities of say Spybot with 53,302 signatures.

In fact, StopZilla has no ability to perform a system scan at all and relies completely on real time protection capabilities and came in 3rd in testing.

Number of Different Spyware/Adware in Detection database (longer bars better)

Test Results: Spyware Detector Top Pick For Ease of Use and Speed of Removal.
Ease of use and speed of spyware and adware removal were two important factors in testing because in the less time you must spend figuring out yet another piece of software and eliminating the spyware that clogs and slows down your PC the sooner you can get back to life as usual.

Time is precious so the less amount wasted on things you hate the better.

As stated previously,

Spyware Detector's quick scan was completed in 59 seconds. Impressive indeed but nothing compared to Paretologic's AntiSpyware which completed a quick scan in a mind numbing 12 seconds. Compare this with the next fastest quick scan time of 2 minutes and 40 seconds by Adaware-SE and the slowest time of 8:06 by Spybot S&D and you begin to wonder if the fastest program are actually doing anything.

Yet when testing the full scan, the same results appeared. The initial scan took longer but each scan thereafter was blazing fast compared to the competition. Paretologic's Full Scan took 1 minute and 12 seconds just edging out Spyware Detector's scan time of 1m 33s. Next up was Spybot S&D at 8:06 and last place was Windows Defender at a snail's pace of 1 hour 1 minute and 47 seconds.

The scan times are so fast and disproportionate to the rest of the field, videos of the overall top choice, Max Spyware Detector in action are included below demonstrating how the scan times get faster with each subsequent scan.

Note: StopZilla has no ability to perform a system scan at all and relies completely on real time protection capabilities.

Editor's Top Pick

Overall Spyware Detector is the most comprehensive spyware removal application in these tests.

It is fast, effective, up to date, and packed full of features that will help you finally eliminate your spyware frustrations
magiccrack avatar
Posted: Tue Sep 04, 2007 05:13
Author:
Microsoft's Defender takes 1 hour and longer.
Spyware Detector just a few minutes!! - Eh who's the daddy????

it ain't microsoft - Microsoft should stick to creating operating systems, least they think theyre good at that!! 8) 8) 8) 8) 8)
lesles avatar
Posted: Tue Sep 04, 2007 18:52
Author:
Microsoft's sucks..big time which is nor,. :D :D :D
magiccrack avatar
Posted: Wed Sep 05, 2007 00:37
Author:
Exactly ... you see ... when i was young i had an Archimedes 3010 computer running Risc OS 3.11 and well Microsoft had to copy the desktop, the icons, the mouse and actions - so you see Microsoft boast about how many people copy their software - Microsoft copied Acorn!!!

Bet you many people don't know that .... 8) 8) 8) 8) 8)
lesles avatar
Posted: Wed Sep 05, 2007 01:22
Author:
yes,me 4 one ,Make Sum Noize - Across the North of Scotland. :D :D :D :lol: :lol: :lol: :o :o :o :o :o :o :o :o :o :o :o
Breesay avatar
Posted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 20:47
Author:
Brilliant topic thanks for the information

STOPzilla! udate 5.0 now contains a scan tool and completes a quick scan on 110gb of data in 9 minutes

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