Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tech: Anti-spyware software can be problematic

Second of two overnight reports from the BBC dealt with spyware.

Now, life is difficult for the average punter. At the very least, you need a firewall (for broadband) and virus protection. Beyond that, spam filters and spyware/adware detectors would be useful. But how useful? I’ve been getting too much spam coming through, despite the filters.

And spyware detectors? Useful, but only to a point.

The vendors have a vested interest in providing a free scanning service, then telling you shock horror! there's a lot of malware on your computer. Just pay for this product, and we’ll get rid of it. Not to mention spoofing anti-spyware software, which is just as bad as the spyware/adware itself. It’s worth reading the Wikipedia article on Spyware, at least for the list of spoofers.

I tried scanning through three vendors yesterday: XoftSpy, NoAdware, and Spyware Doctor. They all gave different results; each of them identified a handful of “high risk” situations and a large number of minor risks. Mostly the minor risks were cookies. None of them agreed on the major risks. What they probably identified was vestiges of risky software, but nothing that could activate and cause problems. I suspect my firewall and anti-virus software took care of them. If you don’t have any installed, I suggest you start out with some open source/free products such as AVG (antivirus) or Sygate (firewall). There’s no excuse not to have at least these two types of protection.

The BBC’s “expert” suggested ignoring all alarms unless your system wasn’t working properly. Yes, in the main. If you have the anti-virus and firewall protection.

Life sure is tough for the average punter.

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