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Spyware: The pain in my…

Windows Defender [1] used to be my go-to anti-spyware software. After all, it was free, unobtrusive, simple, and seemed to catch a lot of junk. Then I worked on a user’s computer today that Defender said was clean. It wasn’t. There were at least six different forms of spyware on there, causing various popups, warnings that the computer was infected with spyware (duh! Of course the warnings by the spyware are less then scrupulous!), a weird desktop wallpaper warned of infection, and even putting a yellow bar at the top of the browser when visiting symantec.com warning of spyware infection with a link (not to Symantec) to “fix the problem.” Oh yeah, I’m going to click on that!

Anyway, normally I would try Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware [2] and Spybot Search & Destroy [3] next. I’ve had mixed results with both of these in the past; they’re generally very good products but I had heard several things a while ago (not even sure where) about Sunbelt Software’s [4] CounterSpy software. They have both Enterprise [5] and Home [6] editions; both have trials but to test it out, I chose the Home edition for this one computer. I installed the download, ran a full scan, and it found five items that Windows Defender missed! Zap. Problem gone. I’m impressed. The Enterprise functionality they advertise, which supposedly has a nice administrative dashboard to monitor all this stuff centrally (if it works half as well as the Symantec console and is even one-fifth easier to use it should be sweet). Price looks to be around the same as our Symantec deployment (not that we can get rid of antivirus, it’s just comparable), which is more than the freebies but if we do try it on the whole network and it finds a lot, it’s probably worth it. I’m putting it on my to-do list.

This should be an interesting test considering that another major commercial antispyware vendor I’ve heard of, Webroot [7], seems to have Jason Powell steamed [8] due to their poor communication! I’ve never used Webroot, but if Sunbelt can do the communication thing and get the job done, I’ll at least consider it.

Anyone else use CounterSpy and have comments to share?

7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "Spyware: The pain in my…"

#1 Comment By Kyle Sagarsee On December 3, 2007 @ 4:38 pm

You should give Sophos a look. We’ve oficially gone with it for our total Anti-Malware needs (anti-virus/spyware/etc.). I’ve been admining it for a while and I’ve been very impressed.

Very good stuff.

#2 Comment By David Szpunar On December 3, 2007 @ 10:04 pm

Interesting, thanks for the info Kyle! I’ve looked at all the vendors (I think) at some point in the past, but haven’t had the time to do any in-depth testing to narrow it down. I’ll have to take a closer look at Sophos, as I’m all for sticking with one vendor for anti-virus and anti-spyware if they’re both good enough. And I’m not exactly happy with the Symantec anti-spyware (bundled with SAV Corporate); it was installed in this case and missed just about everything except two things it kept trying to remove over and over again (which tells me it didn’t finish the job the first time!).

#3 Comment By Jimmy On December 4, 2007 @ 8:50 am

Interesting, i noticed the same thing too. Giant anti spyware was my favorite tool but ever since microsoft acquired it, i noticed that it isn’t as effective as it used to be.

#4 Comment By Y On December 5, 2007 @ 8:45 pm

Have found that no single product is comprehensive enough to find all of the malware that a user can be infected by. I usually pull the infected hard drive from the computer and stick it into a drive enclosure, which is connected to a dedicated scanning computer. Then, I use Norton, Adaware, Webroot Spysweeper, and SUPERAntiSpyware to scan the drive.

#5 Comment By Nick Nicholaou On December 31, 2007 @ 1:05 pm

We’ve had very good success with Symantec’s Anti-Virus and Ad-Aware.

#6 Comment By David Szpunar On December 31, 2007 @ 2:55 pm


I haven’t been terribly dissatisfied with Symantec’s Antivirus component, but I have had some issues with compatibilities between the Microsoft Firewall Client and installing Symantec 10 — you must uninstall the Firewall Client, then install Symantec, then re-install the Firewall Client or the Symantec installation will hang indefinitely (at least for several days!). And their administration tool could use some improvement.

I have used Lavasoft Ad-Aware in the past, but are you talking about their free version or their corporate version? Or are you referring to the anti-spyware/anti-malware component that Symantec ships?

#7 Comment By Nick Nicholaou On January 3, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

We only use McAfee for virus protection, not for anything further. That’s it’s strength. Perhaps that’s why we haven’t run into the MS Firewall conflict.

Regarding Ad-Aware, my only experience with it has been the personal version. I’ve yet to try the enterprise version, but probably should!