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The Results: Cleaning up the Mess

One key measure of anti-spyware software is its ability to remove spyware processes running actively in memory; such processes represent a portion of the total spyware components mentioned above. Panda was the only program that removed 100 percent of the running processes. McAfee followed closely, erasing 96 percent. Spy Sweeper came in third, at 88 percent.

Some spyware components in our test group altered Internet Explorer's home page, search page, browser helper objects (BHOs) and toolbars, and Trusted Sites Zone. We tracked the anti-spyware products' ability to detect and reverse these unwanted changes.

Spy Sweeper did the best job of detection and cleanup, removing 100 percent of the BHOs and toolbars embedded in our test PC's browser, as well as reversing all of the browser start- and search-page changes. Panda and McAfee removed 100 percent of the BHOs and toolbars, but they failed to reverse any changes to browser start and search pages. Trend Micro and the ZoneAlarm suite also did not reverse start- and search-page changes, but they did remove 50 percent and 86 percent, respectively, of the BHOs and toolbars. Symantec reversed all page changes but removed just 79 percent of the BHOs and toolbars.

Besides removing all BHOs and toolbars, Webroot's Spy Sweeper was the only anti-spyware application to detect and remove a particularly nasty variant of Look2Me. This tenacious program hooks into the Windows Logon and tracks the Web sites you visit while also downloading additional spyware and adware.

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