FROM THE TUSTIN NEWS, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2005


THE DOC IS IN...

Reviewing antispyware programs

Microsoft is on the move again. Recently they made available a new antispyware program called Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware (beta).

Spyware programs are those programs that surreptitiously can be downloaded onto our computers and send back private information about our computer habits. They may monitor the keystrokes we make, including passwords and credit card data. They may send back data about our browsing habits. Sometimes they disrupt the way our computers work. In any case, they are undesirable and should be removed from our machines.

In the past, there have been two popular programs to find and remove spyware. A free program is Adaware SE by Lavasoft (www.lavasoft.com). They have more complex versions of their program that can be purchased. I have Adaware SE on my machine am happy with the way it operates.

Not all antispyware programs find and remove all spyware. Many of us use more than one program. My second antispyware program is SpyBot Search and Destroy. It is freeware and can be downloaded from www.safer-networking.org. If you like the way it operates, you are encouraged to send a contribution to its designer.

Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware (beta) is a test release of their program. A free version may be downloaded from www.microsoft.com and clicking on Popular Downloads. Beta versions indicate that the software still is in the testing phase. Microsoft says that we can use this program for 180 days and then must go back for newer versions. This may mean that once they get the bugs out, they will charge for the final program. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I have downloaded Windows AntiSpyware and like the way it operates. It updates itself automatically and also makes automatic scans of my system looking for spyware. I would recommend that all Windows users download this program and give it a try.

Microsoft Internet Explorer seems to be particularly vulnerable to spyware. This probably is because there are so many users. Because of these vulnerabilities, it was not unexpected that Microsoft would enter the antispyware business. It was hoped that Microsoft would spend more time trying to remove the vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer that allowed so much spyware in the first place. However, this is not apparently what they decided.

On a related topic, the other day I had a strange occurrence on my machine. My McAfee antivirus program ran into problems updating. A screen appeared recommending that I reboot and turn off some other programs. I did as they recommended but the problem persisted.

Maybe because I have listened to Jim Mathews so long, I suspected virus. Since McAfee couldn’t be updated and had not found a virus, I thought it was time to go to www.trendmicro.com and take advantage of their free Internet based virus scan. Like spyware, sometimes one antivirus program might not find all the viruses on a machine. You cannot run two antivirus programs simultaneously on a machine, but the TrendMicro scan is Internet based and can be run without bothering whatever is installed on the machine.

Lo and behold, TrendMicro found a virus. When it was removed, the machine worked as it should. McAfee updated itself without a problem and all is once again OK with the world. Like spyware, it took a second antivirus program to find the culprit.

If you would like to hear more about spyware and viruses, or other computer topics, visit “Coffee and Computers” at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. ‘C’ Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.

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Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: www.arholub.com. This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at: doc@arholub.com.


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