Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Adware and Spyware and Malware...oh my!

We have a lot of problems with the wares at work. Adware/Spyware/Malware etc, quickly and easily make themselves at home on staff machines repeatedly, despite the presence of Norton Antivirus. Although I suppose I could spend hours trying to teach better surfing habits to the librarians, circ and tech processing staff I support, I find it easier to let them roam free and clean up the mess afterward.

In the past this cleanup effort meant rebooting in safe mode, running AdAware, hijackThis, and Spybot Search & Destroy (my preferred trio of tools. You don't need the links, just keep reading), then manually cleansing the regsitry to remove any bits and pieces these tools left behind. In order to determine what to look for in the registry a visit to Symantec's Security Response website and Trend Micro's virus info page were required as well. This whole process took anywhere from half an hour to half a day, depending on the extent of the infection.

Then came ...Microsoft's AntiSpyware. Still in the beta testing phase, this tool is not perfect, but it is a definite step in the right direction. I've been using it on both of my home computers as well as several computers at work since January and it's been great. One very nice thing about this program is that it offers real-time protection in the form of a small window near the clock alerting the user when a website attempts to install software, cookies, etc (you can turn this off if you like). So, if a user accidentally starts a download or install from a website, the antivirus tool will give them a second chance to say no. You can also run a scan of the computer without rebooting in safemode because it has the ability to kill processes on its own(A lot of viruses/adware/spyware remain active, running silently under other programs you are using. Older removal tools could not fully remove them unless you started up the computer in safemode which prevents most processes from starting up).

If you didn't understand a bit of that...Microsoft's new AntiSpyware tool is free* and better than most other free tools available. Get it, use it, love it. It's a good thing.

*Once the beta test is over Microsoft will launch a version with more bells and whistles that they will charge for. There will always be a free version available however (most likely to avoid lawsuits over shabby security of I.E. and Windows).

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