Anti-Spyware Options

Dennis Faas's picture

There are so many different types of anti-spyware tools out there, that it's a daunting task trying to figure out which will work best. Is anti-spyware protection best with real-time registry monitoring tools (as with Spy Sweeper) -- or not?

You may recall that, whenever a program is installed on (or removed from) your computer, changes are typically made in the System Registry simultaneously. By definition, a registry monitor tool will watch for changes made to your registry as a result of adding or removing, and will prompt you to either accept or deny those changes. This is a good way to protect yourself against malware attacks, as rejecting an unknown program from embedding itself into the registry can easily avoid a catastrophic infection.

The trade-off to registry monitoring, however, is that it can often eat up quite a bit of system resources (CPU and RAM) so system performance can significantly deteriorate. Therefore it is not recommended to use more than one registry monitoring tool at a time. I personally have run three at once; however, I am a more advanced user and this type of protection is not recommended for new users, as it can become very confusing.

Another thing to consider when looking at anti-spyware protection is the amount of protection offered to different parts of your system. More and more anti-spyware tools have begun to monitor BHOs(browser helper objects). Many malware infections install these to gain control over your system, and reset security settings to their advantage.

The Windows hosts file is another potential exploit. This is a very common ploy by malware and the point behind it is one of two things: either to prevent you from going to help sites to have the infection removed, or to redirect you to the infection host site for more goodies to download onto your PC.

Homepage and search page protection is another area in which Spyware is notorious for infecting. It is worth noting, however, that few anti-spyware applications offer homepage protection, as this type of infection is deemed more of an annoyance than a spyware 'reinfection', per se.

When evaluating anti-spyware tools, you should also consider how often their definitions database is updated. With infections changing sometimes on a daily basis, it's important to be sure that the company has frequent updates, with a minimum of once per week. There are some which update a few times per week and others more than once per day.

Anti-spyware protection is also being offered bundled in system suites with anti-virus and firewalls. While this might seem appealing at first, it is worth mentioning that very few of the 'bundled' anti-spyware applications offer the same protection as dedicated anti-spyware and anti-virus programs. Therefore, I recommend against such bundled packages.

One other thing to keep in mind when finally deciding on which anti-spyware tool you may want to get is that all anti-spyware tools are not perfect, nor will they be able to remove every infection they find. The complexities of some infections are just too much to handle in some cases (not to mention there are often multiple variations of each type of spyware). Trying to program an anti-spyware tool to find each and every variant of an infection is -- for all intents and purposes -- impossible. Most security forums will recommend using at least two different types of scanners for this reason.

Now that you have some basic information on things that some anti-spyware tools offer you can read this feature comparison page for more details.

Of course, should you find yourself infected, and cannot figure out how to rid yourself of the nasty, feel free to ask for help in our forum. I also have a comprehensive page with all sorts of relative anti-spyware information, my Ultimate Countermeasures Page.

Next time out, we'll address some slightly more advanced ways to keep yourself protected and continue to enjoy the Internet without reservation.

Don't forget you can also submit your questions about spyware infection removals, suspect files on your system and other security related subjects.

Surf Safe, and Surf Secure!

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