Microsoft\'s earnest efforts

Spyware makers know they don't enjoy a particularly good reputation. Last year a representative of WhenU tried to convince me the company was reforming its ways, and recently 180solutions has been sending me presentations and PDF files outlining its new code of conduct.

I installed Microsoft Anti-Spyware last week, and I give it a thumbs-up. Of course, I expected it to be good, given that Microsoft rebranded the original, excellent Giant Company program without extensive tinkering. The program comes with all the features I would expect from a modern antispyware program, such as a scheduler, real-time monitoring, and its System Explorer, which lets you control start-up programs and browser add-ons. Most importantly, it effectively roots out spyware. Now, my main concern is about Microsoft's fully staffed research department for identifying new threats and keeping the definition list updated: will it be free of influence from Microsoft's business interests, such as any potential partnerships with spyware-delivery companies?

Given Microsoft's resources and clout, the company probably won't be joining forces with spyware makers. Its sins regarding spyware have mostly been due to its building easily exploited technology. For example, letting Web sites freely run ActiveX controls on users' machines was a major security faux pas, although it did allow for lots of neat, legitimate functionality. Also, since Microsoft uses the Internet Explorer engine to display information in other applications, such as Windows Media Player, it also becomes vulnerable to ActiveX exploits. Microsoft's spyware-information pages show it's honest about helping users avoid and remove spyware, and this video shows that Microsoft is earnest--although its novice viewpoint made me giggle.