Thursday, October 27, 2011

George Mindling Column 01-30-2005


Program From Microsoft Fights Spyware


Whenever my PC appears to be slowing down or acting abnormally sluggish, I run my trusted anti-spyware program Ad-Aware SE. It is available free for non-commercial use at http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/. Invariably the program finds some type of parasite program that has snuck in and is stealing resources from my PC to “phone home” or otherwise monitor my PC activities.

I was fairly confident that I was protected from any of these “Spyware” programs as I keep the AdAware database updated. So when Microsoft announced their free “Beta” anti-spyware program was currently free to download, I really wasn’t interested. When a company says that a software program or product is “Beta,” users should understand that there is no support for that program as it is as yet an “unofficial,” or un-launched program. Many companies use Beta programs as final test beds before the production version of the product is released.

But then I had another PC problem that I couldn’t seem to shake. I have had fairly good results with most Microsoft Beta products, and even though the “Free” period usually expires when the final product goes on the market, I will usually try a program if I feel it has merit. I always create a restore checkpoint and back up my data before any new program goes on my computer, especially a Beta Program.

This one has merit. It only supports Windows XP and Windows 2000 for the Beta, and as soon as I downloaded it and ran it for the first time, I knew the old anti-spyware programs were missing many of the little hooks and parasites that had infected my PC.

The spyware programs are not viruses, and usually are not worms or Trojan horses. We install many of them ourselves as part of real programs. If you read the EULA, End User License Agreement that comes with every program, you may find that you grant that program the right to phone home whenever it feels like it. You sign the EULA by clicking on the “I Agree” button. If you don’t click on the “I Agree” button, the software product will not install! Those spyware programs, as distasteful as they are, are installed by many well-known software companies.

Most of us don’t particularly like having another program telling a big computer in the sky what we are doing or which sites we surf. I like it even less when I uninstall a spyware program and it cripples my machine. That is why a program like the Anti-Spyware program from Microsoft is so nice to have. It can remove the spyware programs that will uninstall cleanly, and quarantine those that are malicious.

Protect your assets and your information. PC users are under constant attack from companies that want to know every single keystroke you make. Using programs such as Ad Aware and the Anti-Spyware program from Microsoft should be a normal part of your PC operations.

The Beta Microsoft program is available from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx.
Good Hunting!

George Mindling © 2005

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