The anti-spyware market that never existed is officially dead

The anti-spyware market that never existed is officially dead

Summary: If anyone needed evidence that the standalone anti-spyware market is official dead (if it ever existed), along comes Webroot Software with Exhibit A, B and C.

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TOPICS: Malware, Security
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If anyone needed evidence that the standalone anti-spyware market is official dead (if it ever existed), along comes Webroot Software with Exhibit A, B and C:

The anti-spyware market that never existed is officially dead

After raising a mind-boggling $108 million in venture capital funding to position Spy Sweeper as the ultimate anti-spyware product, Webroot has officially change the name of its flagship product to downplay the anti-spyware component under the guise of "providing a complete anti-malware solution."

Instead of Webroot Spy Sweeper with AntiVirus, the product is now called Webroot AntiVirus with AntiSpyware & Firewall. Under an existing arrangement, Sophos is providing the anti-virus capabilities.

[ SEE: Symantec puts price tag on anti-botnet tool ]

This is the ultimate confirmation, in my mind, that the fake anti-spyware market (that never really existed) is now dead. I never quite understood the difference between a spyware threat and a virus threat. For the most part, this was a definitions game played to perfection by both sides -- the noxious adware vendors who wanted to be viewed as legitimate; and the slick anti-malware vendors who were only too happy to play along to sell a brand new product.

Earlier this year, I tested standalone anti-spyware applications for a PC World feature and found it truly amazing that consumers were falling for the hustle of paying several times to get full anti-malware protection.

Typically, desktop security vendors sell an anti-spyware tool and charge an extra $10 to add signatures for virus protection. Then there's Symantec, a company that has slapped a price tag on an anti-botnet utility.

In my mind, they're all the same -- bots, Trojans, spyware, viruses -- and computer users shouldn't be paying extra because security companies get to play the definitions game.

Topics: Malware, Security

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33 comments
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  • Windows->WindowsSpyWare->Anti-ThisIsNotGood->Anti-OhThisIsReallyNotGood

    I've had it. Switching to an alternate O/S now.... ;)
    D T Schmitz
    • Where you gonna go?

      So which OS are you going to switch to? They all have vulnerabilities and require some level of protection.

      Good luck.
      dennis_london@...
  • RE: The anti-spyware market that never existed is officially dead

    I have always been confused about what protection exactly do I get with each strangely-named portion of the service.

    You are right, all those little product variances are really part of the same thing, and should be sold that way.
    lmenningen
  • RE: The anti-spyware market that never existed is officially dead

    I haven't caught any spyware and I'm running Windows Vista Business Edition x64.

    I don't go to any malicious websites and I am careful when it comes to do searches over the Internet.
    Grayson Peddie
  • Never fell for it

    I never fell for this gimmick in the first place. Just by using good security practices and avoiding known malicious sites I have manged to not have any spyware installed on any PC I owned in over three years. Home users waste a lot of money on security solutions when free equivalents of these products exist that are as good or near as good as the paid versions.

    There is no better guard against malware than safe computing practices and prevention. The best part of this strategy is the price.
    soonerproud
  • RE: The anti-spyware market that never existed is officially dead

    Spybot and ad-aware are all you really need for anti-spyware. Toss in a free anti-virus, and why bother paying?
    SniperCT
    • You pay because

      Programmers are not machines. They need to eat, have a place to
      live, etc. The same reasons that you work for.
      Landrue
  • RE: The anti-spyware market that never existed is officially dead

    I may be biased, as I work for Sophos, however we have always supported your exact message. Sophos has never had an anti-spyware product, as we see it as part of the larger malware problem. Sophos Anti-Virus has protected its customers with Spyware protection as a base part of its product, with no additional drivers, and no additional charges. This message is not meant to be an attack on anti-spyware vendors, however anything that prey's upon users against their understanding should be stopped by a quality protection product.
    extremulus
  • RE: The anti-spyware market that never existed is officially dead

    Mr. Naraine, learn how to spell.
    zmud
    • Mr. zmud,

      Learn how to tell a spelling error from a grammar error. ;)
      johnay
  • You are kidding, right?

    I guess all those thousands of machines I've serviced removing thousands of different Ad/Spyware packages that Symantec AntiVirus Corporate would not identify (and still do not identify) were all a figment of my imagination...
    BitTwiddler
  • You have to be kidding!!!

    Wow, what a load of cr@p. I have spent the last 15+ years in IT Security and for the editors to allow this garbage is an insult to anyone with active grey matter.

    For almost one third of my IT career I worked for one of the two largest security companies. I spent countless days, evenings, and weekends helping customers remove spyware (and adware, and viruses, etc) from systems that products such as the ones listed in the article didn't and couldn't prevent. Are you trying to tell me that the code I was cleaning up wasn't really there and that I was imagining it all? Do you think the security personnel at some of the largest organizations in the world are completely daft?

    Those who refuse to learn from the past or discount the experiences and opportunities to learn are destined to repeat it. So you can say what you want about spyware being non-existent but don?t come running when you find a key logger. Oh yeah?key loggers aren?t viruses, they are technically considered and defined as spyware. Break the word down into the two parts; spy ? meaning to watch secretly and ware being short for software and you get spyware. Software used for covertly monitoring a user?s activity on a computer.

    There are numerous examples of spyware. Go ahead and open a new browser window to Google or any other search engine and do a search for ?spyware examples?. Now tell me the anti-spyware market never existed.

    It is articles like this which keep the truly informed employed. Thank you for adding to my job security.
    dennis_london@...
    • 2 bee or not 2 bee

      He's not saying that the threat doesn't exist, what he's saying is that the category of spyware was a made up category to legitimize spyware, and to charge people for services that should have been included in antivirus. Another one I'm seeing popup is the Rootkit category. Isn't a Rootkit just a well hidden virus, and shouldn't the anti-virus software take care of that also?!?
      astefl@...
      • a deeper look...

        Ryan wrote:
        "This is the ultimate confirmation, in my mind, that the fake anti-spyware market (that never really existed) is now dead. I never quite understood the difference between a spyware threat and a virus threat. For the most part, this was a definitions game played to perfection by both sides ? the noxious adware vendors who wanted to be viewed as legitimate; and the slick anti-malware vendors who were only too happy to play along to sell a brand new product."

        Let's look at this paragraph in greater detail along with your comments.

        You say "He's not saying the threat doesn't exist...the category of spyware was a made up category...services should have been included in antivirus." That sure does sound like he says the threat doesn't or didn't exist.

        Ryan admits "I never quite understood the difference between a spyware threat and a virus threat." This is fundamentally where I have a problem with ZDNet saying ?Ryan Naraine is a freelance writer specializing in Internet and computer security issues.? Specializing? Do you really expect me to believe that Mr. Naraine is a security specialist? The differences between malware variants and the threats posed by each are key to understanding security threats. I apologize if I offend those who already know and understand the differences but I hope Ryan and the ZDNet editors are paying attention.

        1. What is a virus? A virus by definition is self replicating code which generally requires action by a user. Viruses may or may not carry a payload.
        2. Worms are self replicating programs which need no user involvement. Worms generally use known loopholes or vulnerabilities.
        3. Adware was and is still intended for marketing purposes. Adware gets installed with other software and functions as a separate program. Adware typically generates unwanted or irrelevant advertising via email or pop-ups.
        4. Spyware is an unwanted program that secretly attaches to a wanted program which gets installed simultaneously. The unwanted program collects user information which can be used for identity theft, fraud, or other malicious and/or criminal activity.
        5. Rookits are typically a collection of malicious software (Trojan, virus, spyware, etc) which often allow the installation of hidden files, processes, user accounts, etc. which get activated each time a system boots up. Rootkits are able to intercept data from terminals, network connections, keyboards, flash drives, etc. and run as a silent operation without the user?s knowledge.

        Can all the above be lumped into one category...YES. It?s called Malware. Here is Microsoft's definition of Malware; "Malware is short for malicious software and is typically used as a catch-all term to refer to any software designed to cause damage to a single computer, server, or computer network, whether it?s a virus, spyware, et al." Even Microsoft acknowledges the differences between the above.

        With all of this said as well as the other replies which have been posted I?m wary of Mr. Naraine?s so called ?test? which he conducted earlier this year for PC World. Should I contact PC World next?

        The closing sentence truly shows the author?s ignorance of not just the malware industry but the software industry as a whole. They (malware programs) are not all the same and the reason people pay extra for the other functions is the same reason we pay extra for complimenting programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. Yes, they are usually all part of a suit of products but each one was written, designed, and programmed by people who should get paid for their work. Antispyware is different than antivirus, such as host IPS is different from a firewall.
        dennis_london@...
        • Different medicine for different diseases.

          I agree that there are distinct varieties of malware which function and behave differently. I do tech support for students in university housing. How many scans you run for what categories depends on what the user's gotten on their machine. If we have no cause to believe there is a virus or worm, then we might run one quick anti-virus scan. If we don't suspect them of having a rootkit, then we're not going to bother looking for one. ad/spyware is something we always look for simply because almost everyone on our campus has it. (Despite our repeated attempt, the kids generally ignore how to take care of that shiny $2k laptop daddy bought them.) But again, how many scans we run is a function of what we're seeing. We use SuperAntiSpyware, Spyware Terminator, Spybot S&D, and Ad-Aware (though rarely, now; not that great). For viruses we use McAfee Corporate (which is what we have a site license for) or whatever the user has, then Housecall (from Trend Micro) and Clam AV which can be integrated into Spyware Terminator. Occasionally we've even found registry cleaners like Registry Mechanic (again, not my favorite, but we have a license for it) to be effective. (of this cocktail, only McAfee and RM are not free)

          The problem I've seen with all-in-one cleaners is that they suck. They look for everything, take forever, and do a poor job of finding things in multiple categories. Features tend to be lacking too. One Care has so little firewall control that we can't tell it not to block a server that all connections on our campus need to go through. Norton is slow, bloated, and does poorly at finding and *removing* anything. Even McAfee home ranks up there in suck. Webroot's suite isn't that great, either. I don't see the anti-ad/spyware industry going anywhere anytime soon. The for-money market might be shrinking away, but there's too much necessity for threat-specific programs for them to disappear.
          deramin@...
    • You're so right

      You're so right. These kinds of articles, written by people who are better qualified to write about gardening than computers, only only serve to confuse those who are not computer-savvy more than they already are. I would have hoped that ZDNet would have had better sense than allow this blog to appear on their once-reputable Web site.

      This article demonstrates perfectly the point that some writers, lacking talent or technical knowledge (in this case, both) rely on sensationalism to ensure their pathetic attempts at tech-writing are read.

      If you read the "Talk Back" comments, look at the number of people who are so convinced that anti-malware developers are out to get their money and trying to mine their wallets by trying to confuse them. It might be that it's all about the money and out maneuvering the competition, but to say that Trojans, spyware, and viruses are all the same is totally untrue, moronic - and very sad.

      But the world is replete with writers who have very little skill and very little knowledge, who are more than willing to obfuscate facts, manipulate words, and flat-out lie in order to get their drivel published - and read. Blogging is the savior of "writers" like Ryan Naraine. Blogging allows writing without conscience or responsibility.

      Does Mr. Naraine actually believe what he has written? I doubt it. His article is a sensationalistic piece of garbage that does a great disservice to computers everywhere and makes ZDNet look as bad as the author.

      Isn't anyone responsible for they do anymore?
      tiagara
  • RE: The anti-spyware market that never existed is officially dead

    This is exactly why I tell my customers not to waste money on this junk. Just grab Defender or OneCare keep an image of your machine handy and be done with it. Or just to satisfy the linux/mac fanboys "I switched my OS and now the world looks a while lot greener."
    astefl@...
    • Trust Microsoft with your security?

      Are you kidding me!?!? You can't be serious! Defender and OneCare don't do squat. I have had to use more ERD's and third party scanners (McAfee, Symantec, AVG, etc) to clean up what Defender and OneCare couldn't detect let alone clean.

      For the record, Linux and Mac are not the holy land of operating systems either. They each have their own vulnerabilities which can and have been exploited. I've cleaned my fair share of them as well. Granted it is far fewer but still...it does happen.
      dennis_london@...
  • I never liked that particular company/product

    Quite frankly, there are a million anti-spyware wannabes and few anti-spyware programs that are really effective. IMHO, Spybot S&D and Ad-Aware are really the only good ones I've seen.

    This "Spy Sweeper" program is IMHO a fake. Where I work, it's used on one of the computers and it "detects" a bunch of stuff but refuses to clean them. IMHO it was a shoddy piece of software to begin with.

    AFAIK, both Patrick and Lavasoft are still in business, and both are still selling their anti-spyware separately of an anti-virus product. Just because one company does it doesn't mean everybody else is doing the same.
    CobraA1
  • Where were the antivirus products when people were infected?

    I agree that things have changed in the market. But to everyone, HELLO??? Do you remember what it was like a couple of years ago, when you had some neighbor with a machine turned into a door stop because of spyware? Remember Direct Revenue, Zango, Claria, all those? Remember how Norton would let these programs sail right by, and not even stop them -- and/or not even be able to remove them?

    Seems like a bit of history is being re-written.

    And to those who believe SpyBot or Adaware is just fine, you haven't been hit by a rootkit or a really nasty trojan.

    The antivirus companies have caught up, but we can still see that a lot are lagging, especially with new in-the-wild trojans, etc. See http://winnow.oitc.com/AntiVirusPerformance.html for an example.
    alexeck