Monday, January 10, 2005

Microsoft's anti-spyware: is it a bulls-eye?

Microsoft released the beta of their anti-spyware application on Friday of last week. The beta means: use at your own risk and we won't support the application. It's a win-win for Microsoft because they don't risk any support time and money, but they do look for consumer feedback on the application. In case you didn't know, they purchased the technology from Giant Company Software, Inc. last month. It's not the first time Microsoft has purchased, rather than developed, a key technology. (Anyone remember QDOS?)

Right off the bat, I'm not too happy with a very subtle detail of the anti-spyware beta: the icon. I really don't want my computer to be a target of spyware and yet the Microsoft icon for the anti-spyware looks like a bulls-eye to me! This icon sits in your tray while minimized and I can't help but look over my should to see who's taking aim!

Click "Read More" for additional information.

The software installation is a a 6.3MB download and required Windows 2000 or better. I really don't want another application always running in the background, but I certainly don't want spyware on my PC either. One question I have: whose software is allowing the spyware in the first place....hmmm....that would be Microsoft through Internet Explorer! Seems odd that we're trusting the very perpetrator to watch over us when they are the one's that left the front door open, but I'll give them a chance. After all, this is only a beta, and it is free.

I struggled through the actual download because Microsoft wanted to validate that I'm a "genuine Microsoft" user. This meant turning over my laptop for the lengthy Windows XP product code. This step isn't required, but since I paid for the OS license, I figured I might as well get credit. Once installed, there is a fairly intuitive screen, which is reminiscent of anti-virus applications:

Once installed, I let the application scan my system for spyware. I didn't expect it to find any for two reasons:
1. This is a brand new laptop; only a week old
2. I don't use Internet Explorer; I use Mozilla Firefox only.

As I expected, nothing was found per the summary screen. One impressive aspect was how quickly the application scanned my files: under 4 minutes.

Overall, I'm concerned that I'm "giving the keys to my kingdom" by allowing Microsoft to both open and guard the front door. However, this is a free opportunity to install anti-spyware and I'm going to take it for now. If we could just get them to change the bulls-eye, however....

Before I forget: I went to see how much resident memory the application would take since it's always running by default. I checked this through Task Manager and found two things:

1. The application takes up about 18 MB of memory, which isn't really out of line.
2. Microsoft needs to do better integration after an acquisition; the process shows up as "Giant AntiSpyware"! I know it's a beta guys, but don't you check these things before sending the software out the door?

If you are as curious as I am regarding this software, click the post title to download.

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