Skip to comments.Can You Trust Your Spyware Protection?
Posted on 05/31/2005 6:41:03 PM PDT by El Conservador
The next time you run a scan with your anti-spyware tool, it might miss some programs. Several anti-spyware firms, including Aluria, Lavasoft, and PestPatrol, have quietly stopped detecting adware from companies like Claria and WhenU--a process called delisting. Those adware companies have been petitioning anti-spyware firms to delist their software; other companies have resorted to sending cease-and-desist letters that threaten legal action.
In most cases it's difficult for customers to determine whether their anti-spyware tool has delisted anything and, if so, which adware it skips.
"When a spyware program gets delisted, users won't be aware of its presence," says Harvard law student and spyware researcher Ben Edelman. The practice, he says, "offers spyware makers a new lease on life, letting them keep users who otherwise would have removed their software."
Degrees of Spyware
Of course, some spyware apps are worse than others. One spyware program may make severe changes to your computer's settings, while another merely displays ads.
Claria and WhenU are making the case that their adware programs don't resort to illegal tactics, such as exploiting security holes, to install themselves. And though this software can be annoying, adware developers argue that merely being listed in an anti-spyware scanner's database tarnishes a company's reputation by linking its relatively benign adware application with far more harmful and intrusive spyware programs.
Each anti-spyware firm uses its own set of criteria to decide whether to remove or detect a file or Registry key related to spyware. Usually even a few bad behaviors suffice to red-tag a file as spyware or adware.
Peter Mackow of PCTools, maker of the Spyware Doctor anti-spyware program, says that his company won't publish the entire list of its criteria for fear that spyware companies will use the information to design a spyware application that skirts every rule. That is a position shared by many others who fight spyware.
"The spyware guys want a really rigid set of rules defining spyware so they can then make an end run around [all of them]," says Eric L. Howes, who tracks the spyware business for Spywarewarrior.com and consults for anti-spyware software companies.
Experts recommend that you employ two--or even three--anti-spyware tools. The more you use, the likelier they are to counter the individual biases of each anti-spyware company.
To Delist or Not
It's unfair to permanently blacklist a company based on its past behavior, so some delisting is inevitable. But delisting an adware application is a dangerous proposition for anti-spyware developers. In the past, some spyware and adware makers have changed their software enough to get delisted only to resume the activity that got them flagged in the first place.
As a result, the anti-spyware industry has developed a thick skin. Delisting is rare because, Edelman says, anti-spyware firms "stand up to strongly worded demand letters."
Adware companies also decry the word spyware itself as inherently negative, so some anti-spyware firms have tried to create terms that mean essentially the same thing, using more-neutral language: grayware, potentially unwanted programs, or potentially unwanted software. But Webroot's CEO David Moll argues that matters could get more confusing if the anti-spyware companies try to refer to spyware by other names, just when many people are beginning to understand what spyware can do.
Spybot and Ad-Aware catch a whole lot more!
Don't use just one antispyware program. Microsoft has a free one.
Here is a good definition: If the software loads onto my computer and I didn't know about or want it, its spyware and its evil and its owners names should be publicly displayed that they can be stalked, harrassed and beatened (up to the limits of the laws in their resident states).
My machine will let me get to Yahoo one time. same with google and lycos and altavista. but locks me out until I reboot. Spent 4 hours scanning, anti-virusing, trojan hunting, etc and still isn't right.
Well stated, sir/madame. Succinct and trenchant.
I recommend Spyware Blaster and Spyware Guard from Javacool Software.
They are free. (You can donate something later, if you like them.)
Sounds to me like something has your registry screwed up. It could be a faulty uninstall which left a rogue *.dll on your system, but I'd go with the registry first.
yea, some of these spyware/malware programs hide themselves in the registry such that they are nearly impossible to get rid of. One of the most common is coolwebsearch (and it's variants), you might try the cool web shredder program.
This is why the user community, open source (even though I hate the term), and FREE software are keys.
The scumware guys can threaten the white hats who are trying to prevent the spread of this evil but they have little chance of suppressing them for long.
Commercial anti-spyware vendors, however, are a nice fat target for lawsuits. If a scumware maker wins any significant amount of money in a court case where he accuses a CA, Microsoft, or McAfee of wrongly blacklisting his 'utility,' there will be yet another rush of cases. Why make $0.00004 per click-through when you can sue for $30 million and pocket $2-3 of it after lawyer fees?
In other words, these guys start with no morals and go downhill from there.
Google search for Weatherbug and Jay Hoffman - this idiot surfs boards and news sites constantly to rebut claims that Weatherbug is not spyware. Pick your term Jay, if it makes you happy. Weatherbug is a horrible piece of software. If you must know the temperature, stick your head outside. If you want the forecase, turn on the Weather Channel on TV or the web.
Scumware makers must die!
Let me come into your home unannounced and without your permission and install electronic monitoring equipment to report back to me your comings and goings.
Let me sneek into your garage and install a horsepower robbing device in your SUV that will reveal your driving habits to me without your permission. (...and prevent you from turning left every third or fourth time you try.)
Scumware makers might pocket $2-3 MILLION, not two or three bucks.
Hoffman rebuts Weatherbug-is-spyware claims.
Time to switch to Macs!
I use three companies: Webroot, McAfee, and Lavasoft.
I don't want ANY spyware, adware, or anything else that I didn't deliberately install or agree, in some way, to have installed. I pay all three of these companies a fee to scan for and remove ALL of this crap, not most of it. If I find out that one of these companies is taking money to "delist" somebody, I will request my money back.
Weatherbug is one of the most insidious pieces of garbage out there.
Amen to that.
And Microsoft catches things that Spybot and Ad-Aware misses! The problem with all these is that you really need to use them all in order to clean everything. Why can't someone put all of them together?
---a Mac guy
I like your definition, and this opportunity to bump the thread.