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How Do Spyware Detection Programs Work?

Spyware detection programs, also known as anti-spyware programs, spyware cleaners, and spyware removers, are designed to search out and remove spyware and adware from your computer. Depending on what spyware cleaner you use, it will detect, deactivate, and remove spyware from your computer. Plus it will immunize your computer from spyware it has already destroyed by blocking that spyware from accessing your computer in the future.

But you may be wondering: how do these programs work? We're here to provide you with some insight into that question. Anti-spyware programs work a lot like anti-virus programs, except they scan for different things.

A spyware remover actively scans your computer for spyware by analyzing the codes of all of your programs and files and comparing these to its database of known spyware definitions. Because spyware is a program and it is installed like any other application, it has a "signature" or "fingerprint". This signature is comprised of the entries in the operating system's registry (for Windows users - the Windows Registry) that are changed and the files that are created on your hard drive. The spyware cleaner will look for evidence of any files or changes that look like those related to known spyware. If it finds a match, it will disable the file and alert you. You will then be given a choice to quarantine the file or delete it.

Most good spyware removers will provide you with detailed information about the spyware it finds. Such information can include the spyware's name, its origin, and what it was designed to do. You can use this information to determine if the spyware should be deleted (in most cases it should). If you are not sure about the status of the spyware found, you can put it in quarantine and see if there are any changes in they way any of your programs run. If not, you can go back and delete the spyware permanently.

The key to effective spyware detection is the spyware cleaner's spyware definitions database that's provided by the software publisher. The larger the database, the more spyware the cleaner can identify and remove. That's why it's important to keep updating the virus definitions databases on your anti-spyware software. Many programs will come with an automatic update feature - make sure it's on.

Challenges to Detecting and Removing Spyware

The most challenging part of detecting spyware is the number of variants there are out there. Spyware producers know that their spyware will eventually be found and removed, so they keep making new variations of their programs. Before new variants can be protected against, they must be classified as spyware and their signatures must be added the spyware definitions databases of spyware removing software. Thus every new variant of spyware buys its producer more time on people's computers.

How can you help in the fight against spyware? Put any files you suspect to be spyware on quarantine in your spyware cleaner and report the files' existence to the spyware creators. Their programmers can then examine the suspicious files to see if they're really spyware. If so, they will update the snit-spyware program's spyware definitions database, and the program will be able to recognize the newer spyware.

Some anti-spyware programs have come out that use heuristic (rules based) technology to detect programs that me be spyware before their signatures are released. This method is more proactive in the sense that a type of spyware doesn't have to be "discovered" to be detected, but this method can also lead to more false-positives (the spyware cleaner says a program is spyware but it isn't).

Overall, it is largely recommended that you install two anti-spyware programs, with at least one that offers real-time protection. The thought behind this is that one cleaner will catch what the other misses (or so we hope).

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