New Anti-Spyware Tool Helps You Fight Back
We have been testing a new anti-spyware tool made by our sponsors, Sunbelt Software, and we're happy to report that it carries on the Sunbelt tradition of great software at a great price. It's called CounterSpy and it not only detects and removes spyware, adware and other "malware" (malicious software) programs - it actually prevents many of them from infesting your computer in the first place by using real-time security agents to monitor what's going on. There are three separate monitors: Internet, system, and application monitors.
Why another spyware program? According to our readers, this is one of the biggest computer-related problems they encounter, along with spam. And many of you have told us that none of the other anti-spyware products on the market leave you completely satisfied with the results.
CounterSpy features "Active Protection," which alerts you to suspicious activity on your computer before harm is done, and it includes the most comprehensive and fastest growing database of spyware signatures in the business. Another great idea is the Spyware Fighters' Network, which lets users immediately report new spyware to be added to the database. We like that this information is sent anonymously. The results page that displays when CounterSpy finds spyware on your system is easy to interpret and contains details that let you make an informed decision as to what you want to remove and what you don't. And if you're not sure about some files, you can quarantine them and get them back or delete them later.
CounterSpy goes beyond protecting against spyware programs, too. It also includes a "History Cleaner" that will get rid of some of the data that hides in logs and temp files and could be used against you. It even has a "Secure File Eraser" that overwrites deleted files so the data doesn't remain on your hard disk to be recovered with sophisticated computer forensics techniques.
The installation wizard was straightforward and superfast; it took less than a minute on our Windows XP machine. You do have to restart the computer after installing. When you reboot, you'll see the CounterSpy icon in the system tray, indicating the program is active. Double click it to open the setup wizard. You'll have the choice of enabling automatic updates so CounterSpy can download the latest spyware signatures. You'll also have options to enable active protection and join the spyware fighters' network. That's all there is to it - next you can run a scan for spyware, and you can choose to run a scan every night at 2 a.m. (you can change the time after completing the wizard).
The graphical interface is simple, intuitive and icon-based. Scanning is fairly fast; it took about 16 minutes to scan 138,874 files and 6,686 registry keys. CounterSpy detected the spyware programs that we had deliberately installed on our test machine, plus a few more. As with any scanner, there were a few "false positives," too - programs that we had installed deliberately and wanted to keep. CounterSpy lets you take separate action on each detected threat, so that wasn't a problem (if you prefer, you can set a single action for all detected threats using the Take Action button). Each listed threat shows the threat level, from low to high (for example, cookies are low threats) and you can view details about each (for example, the date it was installed). We especially like the fact that you can choose to "always ignore" a particular threat, so you don't have to keep telling CounterSpy what to do with it each time you perform a scan.
Active Protection works nicely, too. If you install software that tries to install spyware along with it, CounterSpy pops up a window warning you of this, and gives you the option to allow it or remove it. All in all, we were impressed with the beta's performance and ease of use. We think Sunbelt has another winner. We'll warn you when the product is released! In the mean time, don't buy any other anti-spyware. This one detects, deletes AND protects.