I just read through all the comments from last week and wanted to address a few of them. It seems every discussion about spyware results in a debate about Windows vs. Mac or Windows vs. 'nix. I'm not going to get into that debate because I think here is no one answer that fits all. Obviously there are advantages to using a Mac or using Linux, but not everyone wants to make that change (including me). I'm here to tell you it *is* possible to run Windows and keep a machine free of spyware and adware.
To the people who want legal action against the spyware/adware pushers, there are two current class action lawsuits against adware companies. I've blogged about both. Earlier this month a class action suit against adware company 180solutions was filed. More info and links to the court documents are in the post. In April a class action suit was filed against Direct Revenue. I blogged about it here and here including links to the court documents. Both lawsuits were filed by attorneys from Collins Law Firm. Contact information for attorney David J. Fish is posted here. Mr. Fish is still seeking information from users about their experiences with 180solutions and Direct Revenue as well as a third company, eXact Adverting, as mentioned in the link. Users can submit complaints about spyware to the FTC using the Consumer Complaint form. The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has a spyware complaint form as well.
Back to the question of how to fight spyware by keeping it off your machine. In my last post, I talked about using a firewall and anti-virus, XP Service Pack 2 and keeping Windows updated, locking down Internet Explorer and using an alternative browser. There are several free protective applications to help keep spyware at bay. I use SpywareBlaster and SpywareGuard from Javacool Software. They work in different ways. SpywareBlaster prevents a lot of spyware and adware from getting in by setting "kill bits" that prevent ActiveX installations and it keeps out unwanted tracking cookies. SpywareGuard runs in the background and prevents homepage hijacking and blocks EXE and CAB files of known spyware. IE-SPYAD is a free utility that puts over 14,000 known potentially dangerous domains and IP addresses in Internet Explorer's restricted zone thereby preventing them from installing files and cookies on your computer. Instructions for downloading and using IE-SPYAD can be found here.
Popular free anti-spyware scanner Spybot Search & Destroy also has some resident protection features. WinPatrol is another popular free program used by a lot of people. It uses heuristics to detect attacks and neutralize dangerous files. It also monitors your homepage settings and your start up programs. There is a free version and a paid version with a few more features. Microsoft AntiSpyware is free and offers active protection and spyware removal. Widely used anti-spyware scanner Ad-Aware from Lavasoft is excellent at detecting and removing spyware but the free version does not provide active protection.
Anti-spyware scanners... there are many to choose from. A few are very good and a lot are very bad. My website at SpywareWarrior.com has a plethora of information about both. In the next installment, I'll talk about anti-spyware scanners including the good, the bad and the ugly and give some tips on how to recognize each. I'll be at the Microsoft MVP (Most Valued Professional) Global Summit the rest of this week so blogging might be light.