- Internet & the Web
Worst Antispyware Software
Why Worst Antispyware
You may wonder why I decided to write a hub about worst antispyware programs, while so many people look for best antispyware of all the time and nothing else. This idea came to my mind when I happened to get my hands on a software promoted with much hype. It performed so poorly and left me so frustrated that I felt it necessary to share my experience. But then I thought: there's a bunch more similarly badly coded applications which claim to remove everything at ease but actually do nothing.
How I Picked Up Candidates
Of I could ask Google about worst antispyware and just copy-paste the results. I did a bit of research and the websites that I checked contain something different than this hub: they tell about rogue security programs, also known as fake antispyware. This is not the case of my writing. There are hundreds of fake antispyware applications out there and I doubt anyone wants to know which one is worst - they're all. So in my opinion it makes little sense to enumerate them here.
Last year I did a little test to see which antispyware products performed best. For the testing purposes, I selected a bunch of well-known applications, and made them scan a folder deliberately filled with malicious files. It was easy to create one: eMule is a great source to draw spyware from. This P2P network is full of such stuff.
The results of my testing were pretty amazing. Most popular software performed significantly worse than less known competitors. I was especially shocked by very poor scanning performance of one product that bears the label of Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. Probably it refers to the company and not the product itself, but its performance significantly differed from what was advertised by the software maker.
This is a subjective list
This list does not pretend to be the most comprehensive study ever made. It is purely subjective, so everyone is welcome to share his or her experience with the products described, or any other antispyware program. It is physically impossible to review every antispyware solution on the market - few tech labs can actually complete such a task.
However, since in my life I had a chance to see over 30 antispyware programs in action, and put some of them to quite thorough testing, there's a certain reliability in the conclusions I draw here. Of course feedback from my visitors and readers of other hubs helped me to create this list.
Nearly all of the products listed below are currently heavily promoted by affiliate marketers. This is understandable: because products aren't of the greatest quality to stand with competitors, they tease marketers with huge commissions. Tempted by the possibility to make some big bucks quick, some of them (especially newbies) start writing rave reviews of antispyware programs they have never seen in action. Because I cannot afford to spoil my credibility, I have to warn all the readers: please do not buy any of the antispyware products below. And if you see ads here with their names, please don't click on them either. Although I did my best to filter out ads offering the listed programs, it's still quite possible they will be displayed. New affiliate marketers tap into online business every day and use Google Adwords to promote low-quality antispyware applications, and if their ads do not receive clicks, they eventually will have to move to products of better quality.
This, however, does not mean that listed products cannot be improved. If programmers of corresponding antispyware applications correct parts of the software, add new features and remove bugs, things will change dramatically. But in my humble opinion very few products undergo such serious re-coding. Once launched, they make impression of being created mostly for quick profit, and not for long-term development and improvement.
Anyway, let me begin.
The Official Adware Alert
I wonder if there's somewhere 'unofficial' one.
As you see from the screenshot, I tested the unregistered version - a trial one, that is. But because Adware Alert simply failed to complete the scan, it made no sense to pay for it. How can I know if I can get a refund if the software was released with so stupid bugs? I am pretty sure that my Windows XP SP2 was stable and not corrupt, so it was the Adware Alert's fault. If the makers of it really hoped to sell me a license, then sorry for them.
The program could not update its antispyware definitions either. Each time I loaded it, Adware Alert would start downloading same updates. I guess it couldn't save them or make a record of successfully downloaded definitions. Anyway, this is not what deserves to be paid for.
Upon starting the scan, Adware Alert would close unexpectedly with no alert given (a pun not meant here). No error, no warning, so it wasn't Windows fault either - it's how the code worked.
BTW, some affiliate marketers engaged in promoting Adware Alert use a graphic editor to wipe out the word "unregistered". A dirty trick to make it look like they purchased the software. Of course they didn't because nobody wants to pay for something of mediocre quality.
It's worth noting that the homepage doesn't list the price of the software. Suspicious, right? Why would a trusted company conceal the cost of its product or service? Only to reveal it during the checkout, so that a potential buyer would not turn away. Anyway, to cast some light upon this secret, it sells at $19.99.
Verdict: although I believe the program was improved, it definitely cannot be recommended. Simply because there are much better competing antispyware products with higher detection rate and elaborate removal algorithms.
SysTweak AntiSpyware 2008
SysTweak AntiSpyware 2008
This one looked so promising, and the more disappointing it turned to be. In my test, this antispyware (updated with latest definitions) detected 2 miserable threats (while others found at least several dozens of them). SysTweak AntiSpyware missed keyloggers and browser hijacks as if they were non-existent. Not impressive. For a paid software bearing the logo of Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, this is unforgivable.
SysTweak was a slow starter - it took a minute to load. And while I never put interface of security programs on the first place among other criteria, the one of SysTweak didn't appeal to me. Something pretentious to look like XP-style, but not well-designed enough. I prefer classic Windows look simply because it means the software will load faster (like Malwarebyte's does).
SysTeak offered its AntiSpyware 2008 at $29.95. Now the software is replaced by Advanced System Protector. Apparently the company realized that AntiSpyware would not sell for 30 bucks because better performing competitors often charge 10 dollars less, and now they offer a free edition of ASP. It is rather SysTweak AntiSpyware v2.0, but I guess the marketers decided to change the name altogether so that not to have any referers to the old product.
Verdict: SysTeak 2008 demonstrated poor detection and too many false positives. If you use SysTweak, you MUST install at least one more product to compensate the insufficient performance of this anti-spyware. My guessing is that the company will discontinue this line of software products because of fierce competition.
Update 5/10/2009: I received an email from Chandan Garg, Systweak Vice President, stating that the company programmers have made significant improvements to the latest version of Advanced System Protector 2.0. After testing it, I will write a review on a different hub. The hyperlink to it will be added here. Because SysTweak 2008 is now a discontinued product, any reviews of it seem to be obsolete.
Spyware Bot: Errors
To begin with, SpywareBot was unable to start scanning my system. It crashed the very first minute with the error message shown in the above screenshot.
SpywareBot puts its update window on top of ALL other windows. So until the updating process is completed, you can't use any other open program because the Spyware Bot stays in front of everything. Can't guess why the developers thought the "Downloading Update..." window so important. Normally antispyware products get updated silently, or at least provide such an option.
Initially Spyware Bot process could not be started because SUPERAntiSpyware detected it as suspicious, and blocked. I had to explicitly tell SAS that it should let Spyware Bot run.
The tested version of SpywareBot was 1.5.2637.1373, dated 2007. Looks quite old to me.
This antispyware keeps loading with Windows despite the auto-start feature being turned off. Which means the only way to prevent it from auto-launching itself is to remove its entry from the Windows registry. Again, this is unethical. Every user should have complete control over the program activity.
Spyware Bot and Internet Explorer
SpywareBot is likely to start scanning without prior notice. And as you can guess, its scan process is deemed the most important thing for you.
SpywareBot seems to be in tough relationship with Internet Explorer. It wants to close all IE windows persistently, even when I don't have any open. On the programmer's side, it is easy to implement a check for IE instances, so it is evidently an incorrected bug. A properly coded software would not annoy the user with such warnings.
SpywareBot doesn't list the version of the database, nor the date last update was downloaded. Every major anti-spyware lists this data because it is imporatant for end-users.
Spyware Bot provides no scheduling options. It doesn't have any settings for active protection, so it's impossible to guess how it is implemented (if it is). The icon in the tray area lists only "Launch", "Register" and "Close", so I couldn't figure out how real-time protection is configured.
SpywareBot installation folder contains just few files, which is uncommon with robust antispyware applications.
SpywareBot is IE Hijack
Probably the worst thing about SpywareBot is its Internet Explorer Hijacking. It substitutes the built-in search facility and redirects searches to finderactive.com - a website full of AdSense ads. A dirty trick to earn money. Admittedly users of Spyware Bot are forced to visit a website with AdSense and click on anything. And this is done by the antispyware that claims to protect you from browser hijacks!
As you can guess by now, I am not surprised that my copy of SUPERAntiSpyware together with avast! got just crazy about SpywareBot and would not let me install it until I turned off both applications.
Verdict: from any point of view, Spyware Bot is a waste of time and money. It seriously compromises computer security and affects your browsing experience in a negative way. The software auto-starts with Windows no matter what settings are chosen. I can name no reason why anyone would want to buy this antispyware which is just malicious, to put it mildly.
avast! antivirus blocks access to the homepage because considers it harmful. Opera browser refuses to display it either because of malware. For a security software maker this is something to think of carefully.
The awful thing is that Alertspy is promoted via Clickbank. This means that affiliates who are doing that direct visitors to a potentially harmful website. I wonder if they're making any sales, but if they do, it's a sad fact. There's no doubt that a software coming from a domain blocked by avast! (a reputable antivirus) is not reliable. Moreover, F-secure lists it as rogue program, so there's no need for me to check it out. It is to be noted that fake antispyware programs are promoted in every possible way, not just spam and intrusion. Unfortunately, Clickbank approved Alertspy, and I am sure there are more affiliate networks distributing lousy software. Probably it is due to a lack of automation check, but nonetheless the very fact of suspicious antispyware being sold via clickbank is misleading people.
Because I couldn't download a copy of AlertSpy, I am not giving any screenshots of it. The reason I'm mentioning this program here is because a lot of affiliate marketers promote it, and I want to warn everybody not to fall for overhyped antispyware that is much worse than simply being ineffective, it is malicious in its core. Sadly, a 75% payout is convincing enough to attract affiliates who don't care about anything else.
Instead of conclusion
I plan to add more products here as I come across other items. Unfortunately, it is impossible to maintain any comprehensive list of programs within one hub, so I'm mainly concentrating on those programs that get on the product list of affiliate marketers. BTW, what's in your opinion the worst antispyware?