Best Defenders

Test Report: Spy Sweeper Leads the Field in Spyware Cleanup (chart)

PC World challenged 11 anti-spyware programs--five paid stand-alone apps, three free stand-alone ones, and three internet security suites--to clean up 73 components spawned by major spyware programs. Webroot came in first, eliminating 90 percent of these components. Panda came in second among all the apps but first among the three suites, removing 86 percent of the components.

Spyware components removed Actively running processes removed Changes to start and search pages reversed BHOs and toolbars removed Registry run keys and start up links removed Windows services removed
Paid Stand-Alone Program Number Found Percentage Found Number Found Percentage Found Number Found Percentage Found Number Found Percentage Found Number Found Percentage Found Number Found Percentage Found Comments
Best Buy
Webroot Software Spy Sweeper 4.0
$30
66 90% 23 88% 5 100% 14 100% 21 88% 3 100% Had the highest overall spyware removal among stand-alone apps; it eliminated tough Look2Me variant.
McAfee AntiSpyware 2006
$30
58 79% 25 96% 0 0% 14 100% 19 79% 0 0% Cleanup was significantly improved over previous version, but program can't launch from the system tray.
PC Tools Spyware Doctor 3.2
$30
45 62% 16 62% 4 80% 10 71% 14 58% 1 33% This middling performer did not excel in any area aside from BHO and toolbar removal.
Sunbelt Software CounterSpy 1.029
$20
48 66% 17 65% 1 20% 13 93% 15 63% 2 67% This former Best Buy exhibited weak cleanup; a version with a revamped engine is due out soon.
Trend Micro Anti-Spyware 3.0
$30
42 58% 22 85% 0 0% 7 50% 12 50% 1 33% Showed poor performance in removing toolbars and other browser-based changes installed by spyware.
Free Stand-Alone Program
Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware Beta 1.0.615
Free
48 66% 16 62% 3 60% 11 79% 18 75% 0 0% Scored the highest of the free apps in spyware; offers comprehensive behavior-based prevention.
Lavasoft Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition 1.06
Free
47 64% 17 65% 4 80% 9 64% 14 58% 2 67% The free version of this program lacks real-time prevention but has a well-designed interface.
Safer Networking Spybot Search & Destroy 1.4
Free
40 55% 13 50% 1 20% 10 71% 15 63% 1 33% Its behavior-based spyware prevention was strong, but it also had the lowest spyware-cleanup score.
Internet Security Suite
Best Buy
Panda Platinum Internet Security 2005
$50
63 86% 26 100% 0 0% 14 100% 21 88% 2 67% Easy-to-use product was top-notch in removing spyware, but it didn't reverse browser page changes.
Symantec Norton Internet Security 2005 Anti-Spyware Edition
$80
58 79% 22 85% 5 100% 11 79% 18 75% 2 67% This suite ranked third in overall spyware removal, but it missed one infection of new spyware.
Zone Labs Internet Security Suite 6.0
$70
54 74% 22 85% 0 0% 12 86% 19 79% 1 33% Zone Labs' permission-based alerts are far better for experienced users than for the less savvy.
CHART NOTES: Street prices are as of 8/19/05. Star ratings based on spyware component removal, real-time spyware prevention, and ease of use.

How We Test: We performed testing on a 2.93-GHz Pentium 4 Acer Power FV computer running Windows XP Professional, Service Pack 1. (We used this version of Windows instead of Windows XP Professional, Service Pack 2, because the latter impacted the speed of our tests without making any changes to the protection offered by the anti-spyware products tested.) We collected dozens of spyware programs for our tests. These programs created 73 key components in our tests. The spyware components break down into processes that run actively in memory, modify Internet Explorer search and home pages, add toolbars and browser helper objects (BHOs), and alter Registry run keys and Windows services. We challenged the anti-spyware applications' ability to detect the components and processes and clean them up.

To get an idea of how well the anti-spyware programs deal with new and unknown spyware attacks, we also checked to see how they would deal with spyware-like behavior. We created an application to perform several actions typical of spyware and adware installations, including adding Registry run keys, dropping a file in the Windows startup folder, changing the browser start and search pages, and overwriting the Hosts file. We checked each anti-spyware application's ability to detect and block these activities.

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