Pin Me

Buying Spyware Protection

written by: Tom Olzak, CISSP•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 3/4/2010

Not all spyware protection comes with a cost. However, if you prefer to rely on fee-based products to prevent and clean up spyware, this article examines a few products which help with the questions, "How do I get rid of spyware?" and "How do I stop spyware?"

  • slide 1 of 2

    First Things First

    As I wrote in the previous article in this series, jumping on the Internet to download and install prevention/removal software is only one of the steps you should take. To review, building a foundation for ongoing protection requires:

    1. effective cookie management;
    2. removal of local administrator access while browsing the Web; and
    3. a comprehensive anti-malware/anti-spyware strategy.

    I don't subscribe to the belief that more is better. In other words, you don't need twenty protection programs on your computer to keep yourself safe. What you do need, however, is a strategy.

    The strategy I propose is simple.

    1. Make sure your computer is up-to-date with all security patches, both operating system and application. For an in-depth look at this and other end-user system security topics, see Endpoint hardening and defense: Overview of layered security
    2. Install a comprehensive AV product (see the series, Understanding Malware).
    3. Prevent inadvertent access to questionable Web sites.

    Comprehensive Solutions

    Since most AV solutions include anti-spyware capabilities, I don't recommend purchasing a separate anti-spyware product. Rather, I always tell people who ask to look for and install a product which takes care of all their desktop or laptop malware/spyware protection needs.

    There are, however, cases where you might want a second opinion about whether you have spyware on your computer. After all, no AV software is 100 percent effective- no matter how much you may pay for it. When this happens, you may want to temporarily install and run a spyware-focused removal application. Be careful, however, about leaving every second-opinion solution on your computer when you're done with it. You may end up with a clean machine that runs like it is filled with performance-killing spyware and adware.

    Web Filtering

    Preventing access to questionable Web sites requires either something installed on your computer or a free Web filter service. I prefer the latter, and OpenDNS is the solution I use.

    OpenDNS not only helps keep you, or anyone else using your computer, from getting to questionable content; it also helps prevent unwanted connections by spyware and malware used to transmit information to central servers. For more information on OpenDNS, see Free Web content filtering puts safer browsing within reach for everyone.

  • slide 2 of 2

    Paid Solutions

    If you want to purchase a spyware-focused solution, there are only a few I recommend for consideration, including (not in any specific order):

    • Spyware Doctor. This product, like the others on this list, have been around for years. It has proved its effectiveness. PC Tools offers a free trial download which only identifies things your AV software may have missed. If you want to remove them, a Spyware Doctor annual subscription costs as little as $29.95. A low-end annual subscription covers up to three computers, so it is a great solution for small or home office users. Licenses increase incrementally, with a 50 user license listed as $649.
    • Spy Sweeper. Webroot's product, listed at $39.95 for up to three systems, is another very nice product. I've used it myself in the past. A free scan is available for download.
    • CounterSpy. CounterSpy is another great product with a different approach to trial use. Before paying $19.95 for an annual single-user license, you can download a fully functional product to try for 15 days. Further, you can purchase an unlimited-install home license for $39.95 per year.
    • STOPzilla. STOPzilla is another very effective anti-spyware solution with an annual subscription of $39.95 for a single license. A trial version is available, which identifies and quarantines spyware during the trial period. It will not actually remove bad stuff; it just prevents it from acting as designed. After the trial period, it continues to detect questionable software, but it will no longer do anything about it.

Understanding Spyware

This series of articles explains what spyware is (and is not), how it works, and how to combat it.
  1. What is Spyware?
  2. How Does Spyware Work?
  3. How to Detect Spyware
  4. Free Anti-spyware Tools and Techniques
  5. Buying Spyware Protection