Microsoft “AntiSpyware” First Look

Microsoft released a beta of AntiSpyware this morning. I’ve been pretty anal about spyware for quite some time, so I of course decided to give it a look. I personally use a few products on a regular basis. Spybot S&D, LavaSoft Ad-Aware, and Spyware Blaster are my regular arsenal. I use them all and trust them all. Each has their own advantage. The combo of the 3 is my secret recipe for a clean computer (of course mixed with a firewall or 2, and a good virus scanner). And of course Firefox.

Here are a few observations I had:

  • Seems to be a rebranded “Giant Anti-Spyware”. If you used GIANT before, you’ll pretty much be seeing it rebranded. No revolutionary changes are apparent.
  • Advanced tools remind me of Spybot S&D a bit. The ability to explore advanced settings etc. It claims it can restore IE after it’s hijacked. I’ve yet to try this (don’t really plan on it, as I use Firefox).
  • Has “realtime protection”, so it sits in the system tray… not exactly original, but good that it’s active, and doesn’t require a user to initiate the response to spyware. Since users don’t appear to really care so much.
  • Requires Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Windows Server™ 2003 according to the website

Gripes

Oh, I’ve got a few gripes.

Price – No official pricing has been mentioned, but the website makes very clear they are talking about the beta when it says it’s a free download. There’s no mention of the product itself. Part of the problem with spyware/adware/mailers is that they are harming the Internet as a whole, not just the user infected. I’m curious why there’s no mention of the release being free?

2000, XP, 2003 only supported – This bugs me quite a bit as well. There are many 95, 98, ME users out there with this problem. Their computers are clogged with this garbage, and clogging our inboxes with spam becuase they are loaded with mailware. But unless they pay for an upgrade to XP, we have to live with that.

Definition of Spyware? – The product fails to clearly differentiate between the different types of problems one may have. For example as many on slashdot noted, VNC is considered Spyware. While it can indeed be used to monitor usage, it’s quite often installed by the user (or the network administrator). Why is VNC considered Spyware, but Windows XP Pro’s “Remote Desktop” DLL’s not considered Spyware? Remote Desktop provides very similar functionality. Both are installed on my computer. Both aren’t running during the scan, but VNC is still detected. “Remote Desktop” is not. Are Microsoft products white listed? What about partners? Who decides? What ichecklist do they use? Is the author of the product a factor?

Conclusion

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t run Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware. It will provide some benefit. But I would still recommend running at least 1 other product at least once a week to keep your computer clean. Not to mention a virus scanner, and a firewall.

I’m personally disappointed at Microsoft’s policy of “security costs extra”. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s no mention of plans to deploy this to all windows users using “windows update”. There’s nothing stating the final version will be free, only the beta. There’s no mention of the criteria for spyware that the definition authors use when creating definition updates for the product. And of course, quite a few users with Windows 95, 98, ME are left out in the cold, simply because they can’t pay hundreds for an upgrade (assuming their hardware can handle it).

I personally feel Security should be included at no extra effort or charge to the end user. It’s not a “bonus feature”, “extra”, “pro tool”, “option”, “reloaded”, or any other silly term for add-on. It’s something that a paying user deserves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *