If I were to make a list of the top ten job related nuisances of 2004 spyware would undoubtedly be at the very top. By spyware I mean adware, browser hijackers, spyware, etc. During a handful of weeks, I spent more than 25% of my chargable time trying removing spyware. I often felt like I was playing that gopher game where as soon as you hit one another pops up in a different place.

Though I am in a position to be nothing more than a critic, there were simply no effective tools available to help me fight the battle. Spybot and Ad-Aware were helped bear some of the burden, but were at best 50% effective in identifying problems. Here’s how I would go about fixing problems:

1. Ask (force) the user to use Firefox as their primary web browser. I do this not because I have any illusions that Firefox is an inherently safer browser, but because at this point in time it doesn’t seem to be a major target for the criminals who distribute spyware.

2. Let Spybot and Ad-Aware do their thing.

3. Look at the Processes list in Windows task manager. I would sort the list by image name and google and processes I couldn’t immediately identify. Generally the first site that would appear in the list was the WinTasks process library at LIUtilities. This site was a great help in identifying almost every process running on my computer and would often identify and help me remove threats.

4. Finally I would boot the computer in safe mode, run the registry editor and look at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run. This is the list of programs that run at Windows startup. Again, if I saw anything that didn’t look familiar, I would google it and remove any threats.

Even after all this, I would often hear back from users within a week because another gopher had popped out of its hole.

Which brings me to the actual reason for this entry. A post at Slashdot yesterday directed me to a new Microsoft AntiSpyware product. The poster refers us to an article he wrote to give his first impression.

I am very excited by this development. I don’t hate Microsoft and so I could care less who among the big companies solves this problem. I just want to see progress being made and because this is a bog, widespread problem, it’s going to take a big, widespread company to develop a solution. Competition is a good thing.