If you’re suffering an endless stream of pop-up ads or continual redirections to “adult” sites when surfing the Net, your PC is probably infected by spyware. Unlike viruses, such pests rarely cause immediate damage but can seriously slow performance and the more dangerous will routinely log keystrokes and capture passwords. They can also be extremely difficult to remove without a tool like eTrust PestPatrol from Computer Associates.
A fully working, 30-day evaluation of eTrust PestPatrol (10MB) can downloaded from the Computer Associates Web site and installed on any PC running Windows 98 or later. Setup takes just a couple of minutes after which it’s possible to scan the PC registry, hard disk and network shares for known spyware, keyloggers and other infections not normally picked up by anti-virus utilities. The software can also be configured to provide active protection, to stop any more pests being downloaded. Just like an anti-virus product, signature file updates are included in the licence.
A task-bar pop-up provides access to the user interface, but very little setup or day-to-day management is actually required. Active protection will keep most infections at bay, although regular PestPatrol scans can be scheduled if required. You can also opt to (anonymously) send back information on what’s been discovered to enable the developers to identify and issue updates against new infections.
In practice PestPatrol proves to be effective in identifying and blocking a wide range of spyware, URL-redirectors, keystroke tracking code and other common Internet pests. It’s also good at undoing the underlying changes that go hand in hand with such infections. This includes removing unwanted cookies and eradicating background services and browser extensions, including those which continually re-name themselves in an attempt to avoid detection.
On the downside, full scans can take a long time and not everything identified turns out to be a pest. The VNC remote control program, for example, is routinely trapped by the PestPatrol scanner but rarely if ever involved in spyware infections. However, it’s easy enough to exclude such applications from the scans, plus you get direct links to an online database to help decide whether or not to quarantine or remove each potential pest when detected.
One other small gripe, however, was the inability to schedule the automatic update process. Clearly, automatic updates are good idea but the program tends to check at the most inopportune moments, such as when you’ve just hit the shutdown button, for example.
Lastly it’s worth noting that there are lots of other anti-spyware tools around. Moreover, many of these are available for free download including Spybot Search and Destroy (www.spybot.info) and Ad-aware (www.lavasoft.de). But then PestPatrol isn’t particularly expensive, and provides continuous protection not available in most of the free utilities. There’s also a centrally managed network version for corporate deployment. Plus it’s from one of the worlds largest software developers, which may not be seen as an advantage by some but for others is a pedigree worth paying for.
Company: Computer Associates
Contact: 01753 242679