Free Anti Spyware Apps.-Common Misconceptions

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Free Anti Spyware Apps.-Common Misconceptions
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Jim Hillier
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September 19, 2008 - 5:41 pm
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Hi All - Just trying to get the ball rolling here with some general discussion
I have found, through interaction with various forums, there is widespread misconception about anti spyware programs among the general computer user population. There appears to be a lack of understanding as to the true nature/function of many of the popular free products. I have lost count of the number of times one user or another has declared, "and for anti spyware I use Ad-Aware (free)...or SuperAntiSpyware (free)".....they appear not to recognise the difference between those anti spyware applications which include real time protection and those which don't. Consequently they often have an application started in the background which is contributing absolutely nothing toward prevention.
To my knowledge there are very few [b:huv5zotk]free[/b:huv5zotk] anti spyware apps which include any real time protection, the only reputable ones that readily spring to mind are Windows Defender, Spyware Terminator and Spyware Doctor (starter edition)....perhaps Spybot S & D. Please don't chastise me if I have missed one here, but I [i:huv5zotk]would[/i:huv5zotk] like to know if anyone cares to name others.
Almost all the other reputable products do not include any real time protection in their free versions and as such are merely scanner/removers which offer no preventative measures at all but are useful to help clean-up an already infected machine (after the fact). So, what is the point of installing them and leaving them set to autostart with Windows?....quite frankly I can see no point at all, except to install one as a back-up scanner only.
I wonder just how many users are surfing away blissfully unaware that their 'trusty' anti spyware program is doing absolutely nothing.

cheers.......JIM

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Chad Johnson
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September 19, 2008 - 9:13 pm
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Well...I've found that real time anti-spyware scanning tends to be overrated. While most users may benefit from it, I find the resource drain to be not worth it. A little judicious web surfing allows me to scan occasionally and not find anything. For that matter, I don't rely on real time virus protection either.

For the common user...that's a little trickier. For all the users I deal with, I recommend AVG Anti-virus Free. It offers real-time protection and is free. For spyware, I give everyone Spybot S & D. No, there's not real time protection per se, but it has a sort of real time protection for Internet Explorer that is good enough for most people. Plus, it's vaccination feature helps protect against some threats as well.

So even for general users, real time spyware protection isn't entirely necessary. Education is key, obviously.

Now the whole auto-starting thing, yeah, that's just odd.

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Jim Hillier
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September 20, 2008 - 4:48 am
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Hey Ziggie - Quote: [b:18u8qnsq]Education is key, obviously.[/b:18u8qnsq]

Now there is a mouthful....and in principle Ziggie I couldn't agree with you more...however, and it's a big however, I have had so much interaction with the 'older' generation (probably because I'm one of them myself...lol) and a fair percentage are; download nuts (particularly if it's labeled free), what I call 'compulsive clickers'...which means they do not discriminate on where they link to and have little or no knowledge of safe surfing practices. I might add that they are not the only ones who fit this description.
One of my main beefs with a lot of the net based guides and advice is that it is mainly directed at the somewhat experienced users....there appears to be very little on offer for the absolute beginners who, in my opinion, are often the forgotten majority.
So yes, I agree 100%...education is key, but in the meantime I would always recommend the use of a reputable AV and anti spyware which includes real time protection.

cheers....JIM

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David Hartsock
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September 20, 2008 - 6:33 am
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Not to stir the pot, but my biggest concerns are inexperienced users (there are quite a few that read the newsletter) and hackers who are targeting know good sites.

Many people buy a computer and don't know that the internet is like a big city - there are parts you just don't want to go into. Some learn the hard way, others find a good place to learn (like here).

Some savvy hackers are targeting known good sites. They hack the site and insert redirects and silent downloads. That kind of stuff scares me.

The trends I'm seeing, and they are good, are AV vendors targeting spyware. In essence creating one app that does both. NOD's ESS is a good example of this. One less thing to worry about buying and updating, while providing resident protection for the user.

Just my .02

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Mindblower
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September 20, 2008 - 8:31 am
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I for one have a different take on security (sort of). I prefer to use several computers, each using different brands (freeware and registered), and all doing specific tasks (sort of again).

The computer I use for online banking and accessing a few other secure sites, I have layered protection (software/hardware) and using proactive defence software.

I receive email, post messages, and surf the internet using another, while I have another just for d/l torrents. Needless to say, for these I use mostly offline scanners, since the damage factor is low in my opinion.

Using just one computer for everything, is risky for every point of view (bugs, virus, malaware, software/hardware glitches, etc).

Two other topics not shown are that of a good backup (image or simple backups, doing it constantly), and the other overlooked factor is either a UPS or good surge protector.

So in my opinion, it's the mixture of variety rather than anything else to stay safe. That's my one pennies worth, Mindblower!

"Light travels faster than sound;
That is why some people seem bright until you hear them speak"

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Chad Johnson
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September 20, 2008 - 11:55 am
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Another good use for Virtual Machines.

But that's another post.

It's not that I have a lax view of security, by any means (in fact, in my job, it's first and foremost on my mind). However, for me, my computer usage style just doesn't lend itself to needing real time scanners.

My parents are what I would call "average users". And for them I have given them AVG, and I have given them Spybot. I scheduled AVG to run daily and in real time, and Spybot I gave them detailed instructions on how to run weekly. I have warned them about random downloads and random clicking (they're very paranoid now).

The root of the problem, I think, is that there are no guarantees anywhere on the internet. Dave, to take your city analogy a bit further, you know you can go to the mall and there is some safety in the masses. But you can't go anywhere on the Internet without being paranoid and afraid that they're out to get you. It's difficult to find sites that will never get hacked, if not impossible. And this makes it hard for the average user to feel comfortable out there. The false security of realtime scanners makes some users a bit too cavalier in my opinion (I just have to look at the users in my office to know that).

Until there is absolute protection out there, I would rather users be cautious than rely on real-time scanning.

and that's my 9.5 cents. (inflation and all)

--zig

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Jim Hillier
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September 20, 2008 - 6:24 pm
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Hey Ziggie - Until there is absolute protection out there, I would rather users be cautious than rely on real-time scanning.
[/quote:2kpont4w]

I hear you mate but our 'rathers' are often not the reality....I'd rather the owners of the computers I seem to be constantly working on would exercise caution too but the reality is many of them will not change...in the meantime I encourage a combination of both, caution and effective software.

Just to explain my position a little further: I am a grandfather of 12 and impending great grandfather (I am not young....lol) so most of my friends and associates have already reached the magic 3 score plus 10 (birds of a feather and all that). I have been lucky to be involved with computers for a long time....I saw in another post where your first machine was a Commodore 64, mine was a Tandy (Radio Shack) black and white which loaded programs from tapes, I moved on to the Commy 64 and then Amiga 500 and 600, I still have those machines today. Anyway, almost all of my associates have purchased their first computer recently, within the last 2 years or so, it is their very first experience and, quite frankly, in their advancing years, they struggle to come to grips with it all......not only the technology but the terminology and acronyms too. Many of them do not know their browser from their operating system, have no idea what an ISP is and can get quite lost attempting even the simplest of tasks. A short example, one of many:
A female friend (73 years young) rang and told me her emails would not 'go'.....I asked her click on the Internet Explorer icon (the blue 'e') and tell me what happened.....She disappeared for a minute or two and when she returned informed me that it was alright, all the emails had now 'gone'....she explained that she had to switch on the 'internet thingee' (router) to get IE working and when she did that her emails went too. She hadn't realised that an active internet connection was required to send emails.
I hasten to add, these people are neither dumb nor stupid, they are befuddled by a technology with which they are totally unfamiliar.

cheers now....JIM

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Chad Johnson
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September 21, 2008 - 4:12 pm
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I don't know the first thing about an exhaust manifold or how internal combustion works, but I expect to be able to get in my car and go. When it doesn't, I look pretty ignorant too. That doesn't make me dumb, it just means I don't know how my car works.

I view the average computer user the same way. However, just like I have to check the oil occasionally on my car, and put gas in it to make it go, I tell my users that there are things they need to do to their computer on a regular basis to keep it going. Yes, they could outsource it to a professional to be on top of things, or they can learn to do them themselves. I could hire someone to put gas in my car for me, or I learn where the gas tank is.

Because real time spyware detection is so...hit or miss (mostly miss), I would rather not run it, but instead keep the user informed of how to maintain their computer (be careful what you click on/download, run your spyware scanner weekly, etc). I've found using the car analogy really helps my users (maybe I know too many car people).

My fear with real time spyware detection is that too many people fall into the trap of "I'm protected, I can do whatever I want to do". The issue, of course, is that they're not protected against everything, despite the protection in place.

Better to be better informed and cautious, then be lulled into a false sense of security.

--zig

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Jim Hillier
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September 21, 2008 - 6:07 pm
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Hey Ziggie - What a great analogy!...I am definitely going to use that one, thanks Zig.

I too preach the safe surfing ethic and advocate caution to my associates but we are not talking imprudence here nor about a false sense of security, it's something else......it's difficult to explain so another short example...hope I'm not boring you too much

I was called out to fix a badly infected machine....I knew the old gent quite well and after completing the clean-up I talked him through the usual safe surfing practices and gave him a basic set of do's and don'ts (again!). He then informed me he had been wanting to download a particular software and he would do so now while I watched on....no problems. He navigated to the site and hit a link for the download page, the page appeared including a small add for one of those suspect scanners....you know the ones, "Your machine may be infected - click here now for a free scan"...it was accompanied by a flashing 'Click Here' button.......he went straight to the ad and clicked the button before I even had time to react. I couldn't believe it, I had just spent a full 15 minutes or so warning him about just that sort of thing. He explained that he had thought the flashing button was the download link he was after.

I might add, that is not an isolated instance. So you see, supplying the necessary information and advocating caution is not always enough...that is why I usually insist that they have both an AV and AS (with real-time protection) installed.

Anyway, enough of that.....suffice to say that we can amicably agree to disagree

cheers now.....JIM

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Mindblower
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September 21, 2008 - 6:19 pm
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Great exchange of ideas. I recall one incident where someone d/l a file which simply DELETED most of the files in the root directory (when run). No suspicious code was used, so no program could detect the evil nature, since it was a simple instruction to DELETE files.

Going to safe places and not just clicking prior to reading is something all users need to practise, Mindblower!

"Light travels faster than sound;
That is why some people seem bright until you hear them speak"

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Chad Johnson
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September 21, 2008 - 6:45 pm
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Firefox with Adblock plus stops most of those malware "scanners".

I'm not sure REal time spyware apps would even catch that kind of malware. I hope I'm wrong, but too many users blindly click on Allow, so....~shrug~

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David Hartsock
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September 21, 2008 - 8:25 pm
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Of course [i:61lssxn3]everyone[/i:61lssxn3] allows Daves Computer Tips!

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SEGMAT
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September 26, 2008 - 11:31 pm
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Hi all,

My opinion on these things is that realtime scanners are probably better, I know that this is going back to the beginning of the discussion and sort of leaving the way it went, but at the beginning we were talking about realtime and the free apps and all that. I run Avast and Windows Defender. I have Defender scan my computer every night (it's on anyway, it might as well be doing something) and Avast is usually run about every week or so. I don't use Spybot anymore because I don't use IE and Spybot is really useful for IE users but not as much for the rest of us (at least in terms of realtime stuff). I don't use things like Adaware, or SuperAntiSpyware or A-Squared or any of those other programs anymore. It gets too annoying to be running all sorts of manual scans all the time, I think that simply being smart when you use a computer, along with a few realtime protection programs is good enough for just about everyone (expect the kind of people that were talked about earlier that click on popup ads all the time!).

My one question is for Ziggie... you said that you don't use realtime virus protection even. What do you use? I'm curious actually because I had even thought of doing the same thing at one point and simply using either ClamAV or BitDefender Free to scan my machine periodically. Also, you recommend AVG Free, and I would ask why... in light of the new release which clearly is Grisoft's attempt at forcing people to pay for their product, I use and recommend Avast to everyone. I'm not challenging you here or trying to be mean or anything, I'm just curious.

Matt

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Chad Johnson
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September 26, 2008 - 11:39 pm
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My one question is for Ziggie... you said that you don't use realtime virus protection even. What do you use? I'm curious actually because I had even thought of doing the same thing at one point and simply using either ClamAV or BitDefender Free to scan my machine periodically. Also, you recommend AVG Free, and I would ask why... in light of the new release which clearly is Grisoft's attempt at forcing people to pay for their product, I use and recommend Avast to everyone. I'm not challenging you here or trying to be mean or anything, I'm just curious.

Matt[/quote:30tpiyoz]

Hi Matt,

I use AVG Free, but I disable the Real Time Protection most of the time. Although the footprint has been low enough with AVG that I tend to leave it on just to get rid of the exclamation point. On my linux systems I use ClamAV, however.

I recommend AVG Free, despite their whole hearted attempts to get people to pay for their premium service. I can't fault them for that, as they offer a product that's free and it does a superb job. They have to make money somehow, and enticing people to pay for their product doesn't bother me. Grisoft still offers AVG Free, they just made a tad harder to find. Again, I see nothing wrong with that, as they need to make money too.

I've never used BitDefender, but my question for you is: How do you trust the company that made Windows security issues to protect you from those same security issues (Windows Defender)?

Just a curiosity question.

--zig

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SEGMAT
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September 26, 2008 - 11:55 pm
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HA! I know, it's kind of funny when you think about it... it's just that it's included in Vista (which I'm running and quite enjoy despite the bad reputation it has), and Vista will whine at me if it's not turned on. It does have realtime protection (to some degree) and it's quiet in the sense that it doesn't have pop-ups all the time like some software, it's easy to set scheduled scans etc. You do have a point though, and I guess the only reason is because of how easy it is and the fact that I'm not a big fan of anything else.

As for AVG, I can totally see that they want to make money and a good way is through discouraging people to go free, but I just look at the difference in the amount of feature available, and to me at least, the choice is clear. However, I do miss scheduled scanning that AVG has, I'd much rather have scheduled scans with my AV program rather than having to manually do it, but so be it. In the end, it's personal choice between the big 3 (AVG, AntiVir, Avast).

Matt

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