More of the general public are becoming aware of spyware. Up until now, very little was known of this awful, creeping plague outside of security circles.
It is not limited to bugs keeping tabs on who and how is a computer being used. Spyware can also cause financial damage to users and corporates alike. We know of one couple who inherited a computer from a friend only to have it constantly ring sex lines for a month and run up a £400 ($1000) bill. By all accounts it IS a serious problem.
What then is needed is an application to remove these threats. Webroot's Spy Sweeper is one such product that claims to remove all manner of nastiness from hard drives. The installation takes up a very small footprint and is over and done with in a matter of seconds, about the fastest install we have seen for ages.
It immediately asked us to update the program, which we thought was great for novices as this meant it should find all the latest malware without too much thought from the user. The update was quick too, so we had high hopes for the program.
The interface is well laid out and simple to understand. We put the product into gear and waited. It was quite a long process and took up twenty minutes to run through our test hard drive. Other programs, such as Spybot and Ad-aware, took far less time. This could either be down to the program being more thorough than the others or much slower.
In the end, the application inspected 41,457 files and folders cross-referencing them with 20,886 spyware "fingerprints". It was difficult to comprehend the meaning of the term "software found" and "traces found" – we assumed then to mean it found some spyware – eight and fourteen were the scores for these respectively. It found the TcpDump Trojan horse on our test machine as well as BackWeb and the Alexa toolbar.
Overall this is a very well put together program and looks as good as it works. However there are still plenty of spyware removers that do just as good a job as this and are free to boot. This puts the program at a disadvantage in a market stacked against it.