How Sunbelt Counterspy Works

By: Ben Sikes

With spyware running rampant on PCs across the planet, a good spyware defense system is required. Well worth a look is Sunbelt's CounterSpy.

Originally owned by Giant Software then acquired by Microsoft, the old CounterSpy has mutated into Microsoft's spyware program. Sunbelt, on their part, developed what has become the new CounterSpy into something quite different. However, terms of the agreement are good news for Sunbelt - as well as their own researchers, they have the benefit of using Microsoft's research too.

CounterSpy comes in two versions, plain and Enterprise. Both editions of are highly effective and functional spyware eliminators - PC World recently gave CounterSpy a "Best Buy" award for detecting the most spyware out of products tested. So, what does it do?

&bull Active Protection monitors in real-time for spyware. Alerts to the presence of suspicious files and allows choice of whether to delete or quarantine

&bull AutoUpdater keeps spyware definitions up to date. Can be programmed to update at set times

&bull ThreatNet is the CounterSpy user network, reporting the latest spyware discovered. If CounterSpy recognizes potential spyware, details can be anonymously sent to CounterSpy researchers to get a fix out quickly

&bull Includes an Internet history cleaner to remove all traces of surfing history

&bull Secure file eraser completely wipes out any file that needs destroying beyond recovery

CounterSpy sports a pleasant, simple to use interface, on first look rather like a browser. Bold buttons indicating the different settings are laid out along the top of the window, with clear, easy to digest information below.

It also boasts PC Explorer for viewing and modifying settings that are usually difficult to amend, such as the Browser Helper Objects installed in Internet Explorer, what Windows startup processes are installed and what programs might be affecting the Internet connection.

PC Checkup will scan the computer's security settings and suggests where security might be improved. Active Protection is fully customizable in determining what kind of threat it should look for, for example, the ActiveX monitor could be switched on or off.

Spyware scan results are presented in list form with an option to quarantine, remove or keep each item found. Selecting an item provides a detailed description of what it is to aid the decision - provided that the information has been added to the CounterSpy database.

Bizarrely, CounterSpy supports more versions of Windows than the Microsoft product, being compatible from Windows 98 SE (not Windows 98) and ME onwards. Minimum specifications are:

&bull IBM Compatible 300MHZ PC

&bull 64MB of RAM

&bull 24MB hard disk space

&bull Windows 98SE/ME/2000/SP2+/NT4 SP 6a/ and Windows XP

&bull 2x CDROM for CD option

&bull Internet Explorer 5.0

&bull The Admin console of Enterprise edition requires .NET Framework 1.1, Windows 2003 Server/Windows XP Professional/Windows 2000 Server SP3/Windows 2000 Professional SP2

A free download of CounterSpy is available for evaluation purposes. It comes with a twelve month upgrade subscription upon purchase and further annual subscriptions are available after expiry. The full versions of the program are downloadable (at approximately 14MB in size), or, in the US, can be ordered on CD.

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