Cass Wants To Know Why Different Anti-Spy*ware Programs Show Different Results
About a year ago I downloaded the free trial of SpySweeper and it came up with a lot of cookies and spy*ware etc. (including Hotbar).  I got rid of it all and no problems.  Occasionally run Spybot and only get Fastclick which I get rid off.  Lately my computer has been very slow so this Sunday I downloaded the Spy*ware Doctor and it came up with 120 things including lots of Hotbar.  Decided to download Spysweeper again and did a scan and it found 43 things but no Hotbar. I found this very interesting that 2 spy*ware programs could have such different results.  I connect using dial-up.  Read your newsletter every week and find it very helpful.  Keep up the good work.

Thanks, Cass! As you probably know, we've long been recommending that everyone have at least two (or more) anti-spy*ware programs. The reason for this is simple, anti-spy*ware software hasn't completed going through its growing pains yet. There are many more "bad" anti-spy*ware program out there than there are good ones. There are even anti-spy*ware programs that are spy*ware/adware themselves.

Many people think of anti-spy*ware programs in the same way as they do anti-virus programs. There are not many similarities really but vendors like Symantec and McAfee don't do much to end the confusion; rather they exacerbate it by bundling a bunch of unrelated programs into a suite that includes both anti-virus and anti-spy*ware. Still, no matter what these vendors put together, anti-spy*ware and anti-virus are different kinds of programs.

Sure, both have "definition files" and both of them need to be updated frequently to protect you adequately. But anti-virus software has been around for two decades while most anti-spy*ware software hasn't even got a full decade under its belt. And, it can harm your computer to run two different anti-virus programs. So don't do it. You don't need to because anti-virus software is in its adulthood and (most) anti-virus programs are quite effective because they've matured. Anti-virus program can be effective against a broad range of viruses and worms because most viruses and worms generally all have specific functionalities that make them identifiable.

But spy*ware is proliferating wildly as spy*ware developers figure out new ways of making money from your computer. Spy*ware is adware and adware is spy*ware these days. Once upon a time adware was, for the most part, innocuous. Today, there's not a nickel's worth of difference between what some call "spy*ware" and what some call "adware". And, since everyone seems to be afraid to call a spade a spade, we still have not one single definition of adware or spy*ware that everyone can point to and say "This is it!".

Until the day comes when most everyone "in the know" agrees upon a standard definition of spy*ware (and adware) and what specific functions a program must manifest in order to be spy*ware (or adware) we're all going to have to bumble along the best we can. No two anti-spy*ware programs agree on what constitutes spy*ware and whether or not certain types of adware should be removed. Add to this the number of spy*ware vendors who threaten to sue anti-spy*ware developers - and you have a really tangled web.

And one more thing. Let's not forget about the new mantra of the Internet - MONEY. Miscreants don't write viruses or worms for the most part to make money. They do it because they can. The get a kick out of harming people's computers and being recognized by other miscreants for deeds well done (harming computers and getting noticed on the evening news). All spy*ware/adware developers write spy*ware and adware programs for one reason, to harvest your computer in order to make huge amounts of money. And they'll use every trick in the book to get you to install their garbage on your computer.

Regardless of what you read or hear, we're telling your straight up: Internet Explorer security flaws or holes are not the reason so many people are infected with spy*ware and adware. So many people are infected with adware and spy*ware because they were gullible enough to take the bait and install the spy*ware or adware on their computers. Still, sometimes one can be infected without specifically downloading spy*ware or adware but this normally happens when a non-spy*ware program bundles spy*ware or adware with their application. This is yet another genre of spy*ware/adware distribution and one that has not, we're afraid, reached its full menacing potential.

So until the right group of people "in the know" sit down and determine a definition of spy*ware and adware that everyone can agree on, we're going to be stuck with having to use two or three anti-spy*ware programs to make sure our computer are clean.

We have recommended SpySweeper and Spy*ware Doctor for a long time. We've also recommended Spybot Search and Destroy for a long time. We've long since stopped recommending Ad-Aware because they have, in our opinion, sold out. By "sold out" we mean when they were threatened with lawsuits by some adware/spy*ware vendors, they gave in and stopped detecting those spy*ware/adware applications. Now we see that Ad-Aware is being sold as boxed software in stores everywhere. This tells us that money was more important to Ad-Aware than protecting its users. And until we find out otherwise we will not recommend or endorse Ad-Aware.

So keep using your anti-spy*ware programs and remember that you're going to see different results with different anti-spy*ware applications. You can bet your computer is clean and not infected with spy*ware if you're using Spy*ware Doctor, SpySweeper and Spybot Search & Destroy. We strongly recommend that you don't allow more than one to run in the background. Choose one and make it your main line of defense. Use the other two as secondary anti-spy*ware programs and run scans with them two or three times weekly. And before scanning, always make sure you update the anti-spy*ware "definitions" and also check for program updates too.

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