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A Warning About
A Common Spyware Scam

We printed this warning in our reviews of top anti-virus programs but it needs to be repeated here as well, because it applies to adware and spyware blasters just as strongly.

Be extremely cautious if you're offered a supposedly free spyware scan.

The way this scam works is that you download what you believe is a free spyware blaster and install it. You then run the software and it informs you that your PC is infected by a variety of malware.

You then discover that what you thought was a free spyware scanner isn't really free at all: only the scan was. You now have to pay the software company money to upgrade your download so that the "spyware", "adware" or "trojans" it supposedly found can be removed.

This scam is being run by a variety of shady people. And while some versions of it are little more than harmless time-wasters (ie you simply uninstall the downloaded scanner and get on with your life), some are genuinely malicious (ie the scanner proves extremely difficult to remove if you don't buy the upgrade and/or causes some damage to your machine).

The software we list here is all legitimate, comes from reputable companies and the truth of what we say can be easily verified by searching for these products on Google to see what the consensus view is.

We suggest you do the same if you run across any other supposedly free adware or spyware scanning software (ie Google it and see what the majority of people say).

Other Adware and Spyware Resources

Adware and Spyware Programs
Background: Spyware is any software that's installed surreptitiously on your PC to intercept and/or take partial control over your interaction with the computer without your informed consent. And while adware usually means software supported by advertising (which can be quite benign), many types of adware are also spyware (and they're far from benign!)

Spyware can collect many types of personal information and can be used for identity theft purposes (eg: collecting your online banking data, such as the username and password you use to access your bank account through the Net, then covertly transmitting this data to a remote location).

Spyware can also interfere with your computer in other ways, such as by installing additional software; redirecting your web browser to specific sites; or even changing basic computer settings resulting in slow connection speeds, different home pages, and/or loss of the Internet or other programs.

As with spam, the people who produce spyware and malicious adware are criminals (hey! let's not sugar-coat this!). And we believe the ultimate remedy for the adware and spyware plague is to stop defending the civil rights of these people and instead hunt them down, prosecute and jail them the same way we already do to people who develop and distribute viruses.

But until governments around the world decide to really get tough in this area, the burden of protecting against this modern electronic plague will continue to fall on millions of innocent, honest people whose own civil rights have been violated by these e-hoodlums. And millions of hours of human effort will continue to be wasted around the world each year because of it.

Although a number of commercial anti-virus programs now also include software to detect and remove adware and spyware, in our experience the best programs are those which do one thing and do it particularly well (rather than software hydras which do half a dozen different things less well).

But fortunately, there are some truly brilliant programs out there to detect and eliminate adware and spyware from your PC. And they're 100% free. Here's what they are:

 

Popular Adware and Spyware Blasters
Spybot Search & Destroy
Spybot Search & Destroy is an award-winning spyware detection and removal program that's available in 29 major languages and is absolutely free (though the developers welcome donations to cover their running costs, which are ongoing). Spybot runs on all versions of Windows from Win95 to Vista and there are also versions available for Symbian and Pocket PCs or SmartPhones running Windows CE/Windows Mobile. Spybot can be run on demand or continuously in the background (it can also integrate with all major Windows browsers). Spyware definitions are regularly updated and can be downloaded automatically or on demand as well. The software has a very easy learning curve and there are good tutorials on the web site, as well as a forum. Personally, we've used Spybot for several years ourselves and we've found that it's one of the best spyware removers we've run across. The latest version 1.6 - which was released in July 2008 - is also considerably faster than the previous edition.
Get Spybot Search & Destroy.

 

Ad-Aware
Lavasoft's Ad-Aware is an anti-spyware, anti-adware program that's available in two commercial versions along with a completely free version that omits some of the features found in the paid versions (eg: you'll need to download spyware definition updates rather than have them download automatically; you won't be able to get technical support etc). Even so, the list of features that the free version provides are well worth having and we've used Ad-Aware as our backup adware and spyware blaster for several years too, since it can sometimes find a bit of malware that Spybot Search & Destroy might have missed. Ad-Aware can be set to do quick scans (handy if you want to run it on a daily basis) or in-depth scans (which can take a long time to execute if you have a big hard drive and/or lots of files). But it's brilliantly simple to operate and very robust. Ad-Aware runs on Windows from Win2000 to Vista. Get Ad-Aware.

 

Spyware Blaster
Javacool Software's Spyware Blaster is another great adware and spyware program we've grown very fond of. SpywareBlaster doesn't scan for and clean spyware (if you're already infected you'll need to use Spybot or Ad-Aware to get things right). Instead, it prevents spyware or adware from being installed in the first place. Spyware Blaster prevents the installation of ActiveX-based spyware, adware, dialers, browser hijackers, and other potentially unwanted programs. It can also block spyware/tracking cookies in IE and Firefox, and restrict the actions of spyware/ad/tracking sites. The program also has a built-in Check for Updates feature to help ensure your protection is up-to-date, and it includes a System Snapshot feature which lets you take a snapshot of your computer in a clean state and later revert to it if you need to, undoing any changes made by spyware and browser hijackers. Spyware Blaster is freeware and runs on all versions of Windows from Win95 through to Windows XP. So if you want real-time protection.... Get Spyware Blaster.

 

Spyware Terminator
Crawler's Spyware Terminator is a combined spyware and anti-virus program that's simple and easy to use for non-technical people, but also capable of providing very deep levels of protection if you're technically minded. It will effectively remove spyware, adware, trojans, keyloggers, home page hijackers and similar malware threats. Yet it's easy to use, requires minimal PC resources and performs ultra-fast scans. You can set it to provide a real-time protection shield or to scan when you wish. You can also perform in-depth scans of your computer's hard drives, memory, process, registry and cookies to seek out and remove all known spyware threats. The latest version includes an optional Web Security Guard which displays website reviews and threat levels to help identify potentially dangerous web sites; an immunization feature, advanced cookie and favorites scan; and a scan history. Spyware Terminator runs on all versions of Windows (from Win98 to XP) and it's completely free.
Get Spyware Terminator.

 

A-Squared Anti-Malware
Finally, Emsi Software's A-Squared had a few annoying bugs in its earliest versions but has steadily matured into a really top-notch malware remover. A-Squared scans your computer for all types of malicious software including trojans, dialers, worms, spyware, adware and more. The disk scan checks all files on your system disks for malware and the scanner also scans for spyware traces. A-Squared can currently detect and remove more than 700,000 different types of malware and you can download daily updates (if you wish) for the best protection possible. The software runs on all versions of Windows from Windows98 to Vista and is distributed as either a very basic free version (scanner only) or as a commercial, fully-blown 30-day trialware product (if you want to run it after this you'll need to buy a US$39.95 licence). And while A-Squared isn't perhaps as well known as the other programs we list here, it's won several prestigious awards and we think it's well worth a look if the freeware products we list here don't satisfy your needs. Get A-Squared.
This page last updated: 01-Aug-2008

 


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