What Spyware is safe to remove?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Paul B. writes:

" Hi Dennis!

I recently downloaded a free Spyware removal program called AdAware 6.0. The problem is that I am not sure what settings are safe to remove and which ones are safe to omit after it scans my system? ... Can you help? "

My response:

I have received a number of related questions pertaining to this issue, so I will do my best to explain.

RE: how does Spyware get identified?

AdAware and similar Spyware removal tools work by comparing Spyware signatures against known offenders present in a database. A Spyware signature can be part of a file or a System Registry value, for example.

Although Spyware removal programs are about 99.99% accurate when identifying the "bad stuff" that is installed on your system, there is still the dilemma of having to choose what should be deleted. This is simply because some software titles may cease to operate once certain parts of Spyware (I.E.: advertising software) have been removed from your system.

A perfect example of a "free" program that comes bundled with Spyware is the infamous Kazaa Media Desktop. Should you choose to remove the Spyware that comes with Kazaa, Kazaa will stop functioning.

Side note: As I have previously discussed, Kazaa Lite (the "Spyware free" version of Kazaa) has been shut down. The majority of the sites which once supported Kazaa Lite now redirect to a subscription-based site which charges for downloads and collects email addresses for the purpose of online marketing. Ironic? I thought so.

RE: which Registry entries are safe to remove and which ones should be omitted?

Some Spyware removal programs (such as Spy Sweeper) go to great lengths to explain why a variant has been flagged as "bad", while others simply mark the item for removal. Figuring out what is safe to remove can be tricky, especially if the removal program provides little or no information about the problem.

What to do?

Solution #1: Research variants, decide what is safe, and remove.

Some sites on the 'net have databases that you can search to find out more about Spyware. After searching Google for Spyware databases, I came across a site called SpywareGuide.com that allowed me to type in my own queries.


Side note: Identifying characteristics of Spyware can be an extremely time consuming task, especially since many Spyware cleaners will identify a few hundred variants in a single system scan.

Solution #2: Stop Spyware *before* it gets installed onto your system.

Popular freeware cleaning utilities like Lavasoft's AdAware do a great job of identifying Spyware on a system, but do absolutely nothing to prevent the attack from happening in the first place.

As I have suggested many times in the Gazette before, I use a subscription-based Spyware removal tool called Spy Sweeper by Webroot Software. Spy Sweeper runs quietly on my system and stops any program from engaging in spyware-related activity -- well before it has a chance to do any damage to my system. And, unlike most freeware Spyware removal utilities (AdAware included), Spy Sweeper updates itself automatically so my system stays protected from new threats.

Hint: If you could prevent Spyware from being installed on your system in the first place, you wouldn't need to figure out what is safe to remove from your system, and what is not.

A 1 year subscription for Spy Sweeper costs $29.95, and a 2 year subscription is $39.95 (save $19.95). Both services include unlimited updates and technical support. An in-depth review of Spy Sweeper is available online our site:

Spy Sweeper Review

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