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Spyware Software Review

Mark Edwards

The response to my spyware article from last week was overwhelming. Obviously, this is a major problem for PC users.

Many of you asked what solution I used. I did not mention it as I thought there may be better solutions available which I could recommend after doing some research.

Coincidentally, I received a newsletter late last week which contained a comprehensive, independent review of spyware software. Whilst you can read the full version at www.WindowsSecrets.com/050127, here is a summary.

Eric Howes, an instructor at the University of Illinois and well-known researcher among PC security professionals, conducted the research. He infected a new PC with a large number of spyware applications then used a range of anti-spyware products to test their effectiveness.

The results were not encouraging for most of these packages.

The best result came from using Giant AntiSpyware which found 63% of the spyware. Giant AntiSpyware was recently purchased by Microsoft (who have obviously done their own similar research) and is now available in a free beta version from their website:


None of the other products tested found even half of the spyware on the test machine!

Here is a summary table showing the name of the package and the percentage of spyware it found:

Giant AntiSpyware 63%

Webroot Spy Sweeper 48%

Ad-Aware SE Personal 47%

Pest Patrol 41%

SpywareStormer 35%

Intermute SpySubtract Pro 34%

PC Tools Spyware Doctor 33%

Spybot Search & Destroy 33%

McAfee AntiSpyware 33%

Xblock X-Cleaner Deluxe 31%

XoftSpy 27%

NoAdware 24%

Aluria Spyware Eliminator 23%

OmniQuad AntiSpy 16%

Spyware COP 15%

SpyHunter 15%

SpyKiller 2005 15%

The article recommends using a combination of anti-spyware products for best effectiveness. For example, using the top two products, Webroot Spy Sweeper and Giant AntiSpyware, together caught 70% of the test spyware.

The conclusion of this research is that the writers of adware and spyware are far ahead of the writers of anti-spyware products at this stage. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft can do to change the balance.

For those who are interested, my anti-spyware product (Spyware Killer - promoted by Zonelabs.com) was not amongst those tested. I did download the Microsoft beta product and ran it. It found no further spyware on my machine.

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