Anti-spyware software

The University of Otago’s Information Technology Services department recently e-mailed every student who connects their own computer to the university network, to tell them how to improve their computer’s security.

Their advice on spyware includes this paragraph:

There are a few anti-spy wear tools on the Internet (e.g., Adaware, Spybot) that you can download and install for free. To find these, use Google to search for them.

Apart from the misspelling of spyware, there is a big problem with this suggestion. What is it?

7 Responses to “Anti-spyware software”

  1. Kim Gammelgrd Says:

    hehe, I guess what is wrong is: “Why use such a stupid OS that needs that kind of crap?”

  2. Eli Sarver Says:

    A while ago a friend searched for adaware or some permutation of that, and got a competitor’s product, and said product included spyware.

  3. Phil Ringnalda Says:

    Can’t we do “what’s right” instead of “what’s wrong”? It’d be so much quicker.

    Biggest flaw to me: saying “search for” rather than giving a URL. Malware’s first step is usually to hijack search.

    Runner up: giving the wrong names for both (Ad-aware and Spybot Search & Destroy), thus increasing the chances of getting a malware imitator instead (especially with Spybot S&D, which doesn’t seem to even know what its correct URL is itself).

    Honorable mentions:

    “You can download” - but your browser has been hijacked, so you have no idea what you are actually downloading. Spybot S&D at least allows for single-copy redistribution. “You can stop by ITS and pick up a free CD containing a safe copy of” would be more likely to succeed.

    “and install for free” - Ad-aware is free for non-commercial use, not for “…/educational/…” use. Personal student computer connected to the university network? Sure. Any other computer at the university? Not so fast.

    Not mentioning that J. Random Anti-spywear is almost certain to actually be spyware, and that you can only trust programs that have been vouched for, obtained from trusted sources.

  4. mpt Says:

    Eric L. Howes: Rogue/Suspect anti-spyware products and Web sites. “‘Rogue/Suspect’ means that these products are of unknown, questionable, or dubious value as anti-spyware protection.Some of the products listed on this page simply do not provide proven, reliable anti-spyware protection. Others may use unfair, deceptive, high pressure sales tactics and false positives to scare up sales from gullible, confused users. A very few of these products are either associated with known distributors of spyware/adware or have been known to install spyware/adware themselves.”

  5. Richard Mulder Says:

    I’d say the biggest problem is that it assumes that the reader knows what Google is, what it does and where you can find it.

    Depending on the target group, I’d say this is a very bad assumption.

  6. mpt Says:

    Following my e-mailed complaint, the document now reads:

    There are a few anti-spyware removal tools on the Internet (e.g., Adaware, Spybot) that you can download and install for free. To find these, use Google to search for them. Alternatively, the URL for Adaware is and Spybot is .

    They fixed the spelling error, and the address for Spybot Search & Destroy appears to be correct, but everything else is still wrong. Worst of all, they link to NoAdware, listed by Eric L. Howes as having “aggressive, deceptive advertising” and “false positives [which] work as goad to purchase”. Time to e-mail them again …

  7. mpt Says:

    Thanks to Nicola at the HelpDesk for putting up with my repeated nagging. The final version (based on text suggested by myself):

    There are many programs available for finding and removing spyware from your computer. Be careful, however, as some of these may be spyware themselves or may give you false results. Two that are known to be safe and reliable are Ad-Aware ( and Spybot Search & Destroy ( These programs are often also included on CDs bundled with computer magazines such as “New Zealand PC World” and “NetGuide”. For safest results, get someone with an uninfected computer to make you a CD containing the installers for these programs, then install them on your own computer from the CD.

    Once the anti-spyware software is installed, follow its instructions for updating its “definition lists”, then scan your computer and remove any spyware found. Note that some “free” programs rely on the advertising or spyware to run and may stop working once you remove the spyware from your computer.