What is rogue anti-spyware? Rogue anti-spyware programs are defined by spyware and anti-spyware expert Eric Howes on the Rogue/Suspect Anti-Spyware Products and Sites page.
"Rogue/Suspect" means that these products are of unknown, questionable, or dubious value as anti-spyware protection.
Some of the products listed on this page simply do not provide proven, reliable anti-spyware protection or may be prone to ridiculous false positives. Others may use unfair, deceptive, high pressure sales tactics to scare up sales from gullible, confused users. A very few of these products are either associated with known distributors of spyware/adware or have been known to install spyware/adware themselves.
A bit of history about the Rogue Anti-Spyware page, if you will. I had been loosely tracking complaints on the web about anti-spyware apps for some time when the first "super rogue" was unleashed just over 2 years ago. In late November 2003, complaints about a program called Spy Wiper started popping up by the dozens in forums and blogs all over the net. I had an entire blog category devoted to Spy Wiper and its successor Spy Deleter. Eventually the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) filed a complaint about the two, and later the FTC took action and that operation was shut down.
Due to the Spy Wiper/Spy Deleter attacks I was really fired up about rogue anti-spyware and started blogging about rogue apps. A while later I learned that Eric Howes had also been tracking anti-spyware complaints and testing the applications. We began collaborating and the Rogue/Suspect Anti-Spyware page was officially launched on June 26, 2004 with about 50 apps listed.
Less than a year later, on June 9, 2005, the rogue list reached 200 apps. If you are wondering why there are so many rogue anti-spyware apps, click here and scroll down a bit. The list currently stands at 241 programs including 19 that have been de-listed but remain on the page with notes about why they were listed and later de-listed.
This year we have seen a proliferation of what I call super rogues, blogged here and here. These super rogues are usually seen on pages designed to look like a Windows security center, seen here and here. The super rogues are also known for hijacking desktops and being installed via security exploits, along with a myriad of spyware and adware apps, and are usually part of an infestation called smitfraud.
Let me say that choosing the top few was very difficult because they are all nearly identical in behavior and installation methods. I've ranked them in part by their pervasiveness and the number of complaints found about them on the web. They are apps that debuted this year, except for one honorable mention, an app that's been around for about 2 1/2 years but continues to appear regularly in spyware infestations. The names of the programs are linked to a complaint or example of the app, not the website of the vendor or program.
Without further ado, I present to you the top 10 rogue anti-spyware applications of 2005.
Dis-Honorable mention goes to VirtualBouncer/AdDestoyer for its 2 1/2 year history of being stealth installed in exploits without notice or consent.
8. WinAntiVirus and its companion WinAntiSpyware 2005 for hijacking, aggressive advertising and inappropriate collection of personally identifying information.
7. SpywareNo and its clone SpyDemolisher for stealth installation and deceptive aggressive advertising.
6. Razespyware for stealth installs, desktop hijacks and aggressive advertising.
5. Spy Trooper for stealth installs, desktop hijacks and aggressive advertising.
4. WorldAntiSpy for stealth installs, desktop hijacks and aggressive advertising.
3. PSGuard for stealth installs, desktop hijacks and aggressive advertising.
2. SpySheriff for stealth installs, desktop hijacks and aggressive advertising.
1. SpyAxe for desktop hijacks, stealth installs and deceptive, aggressive advertising.
Note: For anyone landing on this this page while searching for help with removing these rogues, I'd suggest going to one of the reputable spyware help forums and posting for help. SpyWareBeware, the home of ASAP, the Alliance of Security Analysis Professionals lists member sites where users can get expert help with spyware removal from trained volunteers.