Microsoft Gets Anti-Spyware Right - Sort Of

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Preston Gralla

Preston Gralla
Jan. 10, 2005 12:55 PM

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I've been using beta of Microsoft AntiSpyware since its release last week, and I'm impressed - very impressed, in fact. I've tried all the top spyware-killers, and at the moment I'd rate it right up there at the top. But there's a fly in the ointment, which I'll explain after I tell you about what's good with the beta.

Like the best spyware-killers, the beta offers real-time protection against spyware, home page hijackers, rabid ActiveX controls, Browser Helper Objects (BHOs) and other assorted pests. It offers much more in-depth control over spyware protection than its competitors, and gives you more system information as well. Its scanners have found everything that I've thrown at them. And it offers extras that others don't have, such as alerting you when someone hops onto your WiFi network. In short, it's a winner.

It's true that Microsoft didn't actually write it; instead, it bought Giant Company Software, tweaked that company's Giant AntiSpyware software, and released it as the Microsoft AntiSpyware beta. That's not the point, though. The point is that Microsoft was smart enough to buy the best one out there and then rush it out the door.

So what's the problem? Microsoft has things backwards. After all, the reason that Windows needs a great anti-spyware tool is that the operating system is so vulnerable to spyware. Internet Explorer's use of ActiveX controls and Browser Helper Objects means that it's easy for spyware and other pests to worm their way into your system. And because Internet Explorer is directly tied into the operating system, it means that a successful attack on IE is a successful attack on Windows. There are countless other Windows vulnerabilities that need to be plugged as well.

To give credit where it's due, Microsoft has released a great anti-spyware tool. Now, if the company would only devote itself to underlying Windows security, it wouldn't have to spend so much time and money on anti-spyware software, and we'd all be better off.

Preston Gralla is the author of Windows Vista in a Nutshell, the Windows Vista Pocket Reference, and is the editor of He is also the author of Internet Annoyances, PC Pest Control, Windows XP Power Hound, and Windows XP Hacks, Second Edition, and co-author of Windows XP Cookbook. He has written more than 30 other books.