capsule review

Webroot Spy Sweeper 5.5

At a Glance
  • Webroot SpySweeper 5.5

In "Spyware Fighters," our October 2006 issue's antispyware roundup, Webroot Spy Sweeper 5.0 Beta earned our Best Buy distinction. Things have changed with version 5.5--and not for the better. The software demonstrates excellent behavior-based detection capabilities,. but we were disappointed at how the program struggled to remove adware and spyware from the PC.

When presented Spy Sweeper with 20 active adware and spyware samples, the program detected 85 percent of their files and registry entries, though it overlooked the Maran and Nilage password stealers and the Virtumonde.A. Trojan horse. When tested on how well it detected inactive adware and spyware (which involves recognizing malware files solely from their signatures), however, the program spotted only 26 percent of adware, just over 14 percent of password-stealing spyware, and less than 2 percent of banking keyloggers. Another disappointment: It detected just four of the nine inactive rootkits planted on the test machine. The program did poorly at disinfection, too, cleaning up only 25 percent of adware files and Registry entries and 15 percent of spyware files and Registry entries.

Still, Spyware Sweeper excels in behavior-based detection--its ability to notice suspicious changes to key areas of your system. It successfully flagged additions to 'Run' keys (HKCU and HKLM) and the startup folder as well as changes to default Internet Explorer Start and Search pages and the Hosts file.

Spy Sweeper installed without a glitch. It provides one-click access to its system scan, and in our tests at default settings it completed such scans in half the time that the next-fastest competitor did. Webroot doesn't set up scheduled scans by default, but the company says that it may add a setup wizard to the installation process to nudge users into doing so.

The software's 12 Shields feature, also easy to set up, offers real-time protection for monitoring browsers, startup programs, e-mail attachments, network connections, and other system areas for spyware-related changes. If you need help, the company offers 10 hours of free phone support on weekdays.

Annoyingly, the software asked us what to do during installation of four popular browser toolbars (AOL, Das Ortliche, Google, and Quero), whereas the other five programs in our October 2007 issue's antispyware roundup, "Die, Spyware, Die!" independently deduced that the toolbars were legitimate. We also disliked the program's habit of flagging of harmless ad-tracking cookies. This behavior introduced a noise factor to an otherwise well-designed application that, unfortunately, doesn't perform as well as it used to.

Ryan Naraine

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Behavior-based protection is good


    • Performed worse than the earlier 5.0 Beta version
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