SpySweeper 5 review: SpySweeper 5

Webroot Spy Sweeper 5.2 is the first antispyware application to add antivirus protection, but that protection isn't complete. Upgrade to or buy the antispyware-only edition, not the antivirus edition.

Robert Vamosi

Robert Vamosi

Former Editor

As CNET's former resident security expert, Robert Vamosi has been interviewed on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets to share his knowledge about the latest online threats and to offer advice on personal and corporate security.

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Spy Sweeper 5.2 is available for retail purchase or download with or without antivirus enabled. Current Spy Sweeper customers' apps will be automatically upgraded to version 5.2 (with an option to enable antivirus for $10 more). We recommend that current users upgrade to 5.2 but wait to buy into the additional antivirus protection in a later version. At $39, the combined Spy Sweeper 5.2 with Antivirus package runs roughly the same price as most other antivirus applications on the market today; however, Webroot's current integration leaves out some protection found in traditional antivirus applications. We experienced no difficulties installing Spy Sweeper 5.2 with Antivirus.


SpySweeper 5

The Good

Spy Sweeper 5.2 now includes some (but not all) aspects of the Sophos antivirus engine.

The Bad

Spy Sweeper 5.2 provides only on-demand antivirus protection, doesn't guard against active e-mail and IM viruses and worms until your system is infected, and makes rootkit detection an optional scan.

The Bottom Line

Webroot Spy Sweeper 5.2 is the first antispyware application to add antivirus protection, but that protection isn't complete. Upgrade to or buy the antispyware-only edition, not the antivirus edition.
Webroot Spy Sweeper 5.2 with Antivirus is the first pure antispyware application reviewed by CNET to add antivirus technology. While traditional antivirus vendors have been bundling antispyware technology with their flagship products for years, antispyware vendors have been steadfastly creating their applications without antivirus protection. Webroot has partnered with top-rated U.K.-based Sophos Anti-Virus, which sells primarily to the enterprise market. But the antivirus scanner included within Spy Sweeper doesn't extend to e-mail or IM, two common virus vectors that go unprotected. Webroot says that additional antivirus functionality will be added to later versions of Spy Sweeper; for now, we think you're much safer going with a traditional antivirus product that also includes antispyware protection, such as our Editors' Choice, .

Should you decide to uninstall Spy Sweeper, Webroot includes an uninstall icon on the All Programs list. After rebooting, we found no trace of Spy Sweeper in the Program Files directory or the system registry.

The Spy Sweeper 5.2 with Antivirus interface remains unchanged from that of Spy Sweeper 5, with the exception of a tiny upper-right corner panel informing you whether antivirus protection has been enabled. Webroot's integration of Sophos is invisible; there's no separate configuration page for antivirus scans, which got us wondering how much antivirus protection exists within Spy Sweeper. To tweak scans for individual files or folders, simply use the Spy Sweeper configuration screen.

Spy Sweeper's redesigned interface is crisp and intuitive, the result of many hours of user-interface testing. For example, we like that during a scan, the color-coded tabs on the scan page mark your progress: Sweeping, Quarantine, and Summary. Behind the scenes, Webroot triages all identified malware, sending the viral components to the Sophos engine and handling the other spyware components within the Spy Sweeper engine. However, upon closer inspection it is clear there are no protective settings to block incoming viruses from e-mail or IM.

Aside from antivirus protection, Spy Sweeper continues to provide first-class antispyware protection. Webroot uses protective shields to protect your hard drive, blocking spyware and adware as it attempts to download. Within the Spy Sweeper Sweep section there are three options. Full Sweep scans all the files on your computer's attached drives. Quick Sweep offers a fast and light pass of your main drive system. Custom Sweep allows you to select individual drives or folders or exclude extensions.

But we found that deep scans for rootkits, pernicious little malware packages that hide deep within the system kernel, are now optional. Webroot says that its advanced heuristic rootkit protection can be time (and possibly resource) intensive, so Spy Sweeper 5.2 makes it an optional feature. With traditional antivirus packages, full rootkit protection, when offered, is enabled by default.

As previously mentioned, we also found aspects of traditional antivirus technology missing. Presently, Webroot includes only the On Demand Sophos virus inspection engine to check for and remove file infections. Missing is the Realtime Sophos virus engine that looks for active infections from e-mail, IM, and other vectors. Webroot says that functionality will come later, but it's a tad misleading to suggest that Spy Sweeper 5.2 with Antivirus is a complete antivirus solution.

In addition to adding the antivirus engine, it appears Webroot has made significant code tweaks under the hood to improve overall performance. In some cases they elected to make some scans optional. Thus, we found that Spy Sweeper 5.2 used fewer system resources while scanning than Spy Sweeper 5.

Check back in December to see how Spy Sweeper ranks among other antispyware apps at removing active spyware threats.

As for Spy Sweeper's reputation for software conflicts, that's improved as well. We installed Spy Sweeper 5.2 with ZoneAlarm Security Suite 6.7.5 on the same test machine and experienced no difficulties or conflicts, even with two antivirus engines present. That's because the antivirus engine in Spy Sweeper is passive, invoked only when actively scanning your PC. In general, you should never have two antivirus applications running on the same PC.

Webroot supports Spy Sweeper by providing online FAQs, a 24/7 e-mail trouble ticket, and toll-free live telephone support located within the country of the caller (Webroot is particularly proud of this fact).

While we applaud Webroot's decision to partner with a premier antivirus vendor, we question the decision to rush the incomplete Spy Sweeper 5.2 product to market. Missing is proactive protection from virus infections from e-mail or IM.


SpySweeper 5

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 7Performance 7Support 7
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