By the end of the 90s, the number of spyware packages appearing was starting to get seriously out of hand, so much so that in 2000 Gibson Research released a program called OptOut, designed to uninstall some of the major spyware packages. Soon after, a small European company called Lavasoft started offering software that removed many more of the most common spyware packages bundled with free software. Many users were surprised to find out exactly how much malicious software had been installed on their system with the programs that they had downloaded.

Lavasoft's Adaware

Since Lavasoft introduced Ad-Aware, many other players have gotten into the spyware removal business, and it's now a legitimate software category.

Anti-spyware is very much like a virus remover -- it finds and (usually) removes any spyware installed on a system. Some of the better applications are as polished as the best virus checkers, others are still shaky.

It's only fairly recently that the big antivirus companies have started to get involved in the anti-spyware game. Because most spyware packages are legally, if deceitfully, installed, players like Symantec and McAfee feared legal retribution from spyware companies. Recently, however, as anti-spyware has become such an important utility in the Internet age, the big players have begun to offer anti-spyware solutions as well.

It is also worth noting that in recent times hardware-based solutions have begun to pop up. At this point the only major option is D-Link's SecureSpot range of products, which builds anti-spyware, antivirus and a firewall all into a router, giving you a complete security package with minimum hassle. While this may not be as effective as a combination of anti-spyware software packages, the convenience it offers is definitely a boon.

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