Sunday, November 21, 2004

Spyware Tool -- Spybot - Search & Destroy (version 1.4)

Spybot - Search & Destroy

Spybot Screen Shot (click on the image to enlarge)

Surprisingly, there are quite a few people that don’t know about spyware. You can just type spyware on any search engine and find vast amounts of information about it. If you want a brief version, spyware is basically a program that installs when you either visit a web site or may be installed when you install some programs. Most spyware is completely invisible to the user and it reports your web surfing habits to some other web site. Most often, spyware installs in the form of a cookie when you visit a web site. However, it can be installed with other free programs that you download from the internet. If you don’t care if someone else knows your web surfing habits, spyware can take more obnoxious forms. For example, some spyware makes advertising pop-up on your computer even if your web browser is not open. Some spyware can add tool bars to your browser. Even the invisible forms of spyware can slow down your connection to the internet, because each spyware object must connect to the internet to report your web surfing habits. I had a friend tell me that he knew of someone that had over a thousand spyware objects on their computer. It definitely slowed it down. Spyware may sound like a type of virus but since it does not damage your computer, most virus scanning software does not check it. Some virus scanners do check for some of the worst spyware offenders but I don’t know of any that does a comprehensive check. Congress is working to pass laws making spyware illegal but the laws have not been passed yet. Even if they do, I doubt there is much the U.S. can do about spyware created in foreign countries. To the best of my knowledge, none of the software that I recommend on this page comes bundled with spyware but it is impossible for me to check it continuously. I have found that spyware often comes bundled with desktop themes and screensavers that you download from the internet. In 2002, I bought TurboTax to do my income tax and found that it even had spyware. I found TurboTax would not work without having the spyware installed also. Even Microsoft Windows Media player come bundled with spyware. When you install a new program, I recommend that you review the license agreement. If it has wording about software from third party vendors, the program probably has spyware.

Spybot has a scanner that functions like a virus scanner only Spybot looks for spyware. Spybot has a pull down menu called “Mode” that has two options called “Default” and “Advanced”. I actually only used the advanced mode one time after I installed it. I use a pop up blocker with my web browser which uses a proxy. Spybot inherited the same proxy but wouldn’t work with it. I used the advanced mode to delete the proxy. I recommend using the default mode unless the program does not work, then you may need to use the advanced mode. More likely than not, you won’t need the advanced mode.

After you open Spybot, you will notice it has four basic options, “Search & Destroy”, “Recovery”, “Immunize” and “Update” on the left side of the main panel. Before you perform any scans, you should first see if the are any updates. The “Update” option has three main buttons. “Search for Updates” lists any updates that need to be installed on your computer. You simply click in the box to place check mark inside it. The second button allows you to select a site from which to download. The third button downloads the updates.

After you download an update, you should open the “Immunize” option and click on the “Immunize” button. It blocks spyware from being installed. I have found that it also monitors your registry and asks if you want to allow a change. If I am browsing web pages, I always say no to prevent changes to the registry. If I am installing a program, I always allow changes to the registry.

The “Search & Destroy” option is how you access the scanner. Just clicking on the “Check for Problems” button starts the scan. A list of spyware that is installed on your computer is generated. You can then select each item and then select to fix the problems, which will deactivate the spyware.

The “Recovery” option allows you to reinstall the spyware that you deactivated. It is provided as an option because some programs that you want to use must have the spyware installed in order for it to work. I have never had the need to use this option, but it is there if you need it.

The biggest problem I had with Spybot was when they issued a new version of the software. I noticed when I was using the program that I stopped getting updates. I discovered that they had released a new version and you couldn’t get updates by using an older version of the program. Oddly, there was no indication when I searched for updates that a new version was available. It just simply stopped receiving updates.

Spybot’s web site says that it supports Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, and XP, although there is no support for Mac OS or Linux/Unix. Spybot’s home page has a link to a tutorial that I recommend reading to learn more about the software. The download consists of a single file, spybotsd13.exe, which you double click with a file manager to install. After installation, the executable is SpybotSD.exe.

Your best defense against spyware is to install the three spyware tools that I recommend on my web site, Spybot, Ad-Aware and SpywareBlaster, each of which I have reviewed separately.

Spybot Home Page

Download Spybot


At February 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

George, tracks updates and latest versions for Spybot, Ad Aware and other applications (Freeware, Shareware, Pay). I check it a couple times a week. If you haven't already, you may want to check out the site. It also has a guide to "Basic Spyware, Trojan And Virus Removal" (

Thanks for your website - great reviews. BTW, came to your site from your post to the Wink Forum. Best Wishes.



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