Do you ever get the feeling that you’re being watched? That could be because someone is watching everything you do… online.
Most people protect themselves against computer viruses, but they fail to understand that spyware is often far more harmful and dangerous.
Spyware is software that sneaks into your devices, collects your most private and sensitive information, and relays it back to hackers, shady criminal organizations, and sometimes, even governments.
Because so much of our most sensitive data is stored digitally on our computers and electronic devices – including banking info, passwords, and credit card numbers – protecting against such major breaches of privacy is essential.
To read more about the dangers of spyware and to see if you might be infected, jump down to the bottom of this article.
Anti-Spyware Software is Necessary for Online Security
But protection against spyware is often overlooked in the antivirus market. Since spyware is only one type of digital threat, some programs designed to protect against malware or viruses don’t do enough to combat spyware.
However, there is plenty of anti-spyware software available – some even for free. We tested and analyzed all 47 antivirus programs on the market.
Malwarebytes tops our list because of its robust antivirus and spyware fighting capabilities. And SUPERAntiSpyware is our favorite dedicated anti-spyware tool.
That said, take a look at the 8 best anti-spyware tools on the market, and see which one will offer you the protection you need.
Quick Links: 8 Best Anti-Spyware Programs for 2019
Full antivirus programs that include spyware protection:
Dedicated anti-spyware solutions:
General Antivirus Software
General antivirus software is an all-in-one solution that covers every type of digital security. It protects against viruses, malware, ransomware, and other threats, including spyware.
Malwarebytes scans your registry and your processes, and it provides you with a detailed analysis to help you find more resilient spyware, unknown viruses, and rootkits.
While the free version of Malwarebytes covers everything you need in terms of scanning, the paid version (which you can try free for a month) adds some great features, such as:
- Scheduled and automatic scanning.
- Real-time protection.
- Browser protection.
The free version of Malwarebytes also allows you to quarantine any threat at the end of each scan. On top of that, the antivirus function is capable of catching rootkits.
All of these features combined make it a very reliable anti-spyware tool.
2. AVG AntiVirus Free
AVG and Avast are run by the same company, and they both use the same engine. And both have amazing malware detection rates.
There are a few notable differences, though. Unlike Avast, AVG doesn’t offer network security or a software updater.
But it does offer:
- Data theft protection.
- A file shredder for getting rid of sensitive data permanently.
- Web and email protection.
- Deep scanning capabilities that search for spyware hidden behind unknown extensions or archived directories.
- Access to its service without registration (unlike Avast).
And because AVG scans files in the order they appear on the hard drive, scanning is exceptionally fast.
3. Avast Free Antivirus
Just like AVG, Avast is an excellent all-round antivirus program. It consistently scores high on malware detection tests, and it is one of the most trusted antivirus programs out there.
It also takes down spyware before it has the chance to do any damage to your system.
Plus, it offers a host of other useful security features, including:
- Network security inspector.
- Virtual Private Network (VPN).
- File cleaner for freeing up hard drive space.
- Software updater.
- Web protection.
- Password manager.
If you’re looking for even more features and you want to avoid the pop-ups you’re going to get with the free version, then we’d recommend upgrading to the paid version.
4. Adaware Antivirus
Adaware blocks incoming spyware before it can infect your device. Its real-time protection, scheduled scanning, and automatic updating make it a wonderful anti-spyware choice. There’s even a dedicated gaming mode for disabling notifications during games.
Adaware also offers protection against:
- Registry attacks.
- Suspicious processes.
The free version of Adaware is enough to defend against spyware, but if you want web, email, and/or network protection, you’ll have to pay for the pro version.
Dedicated Anti-Spyware Solutions
If you’re looking for a more specialized anti-spyware tool, there are five great programs that focus solely on combating spyware.
SUPERAntiSpyware targets malicious programs that threaten your personal data and privacy, including:
- Trojan Horses.
The program will intelligently skip over previously-scanned files and low-risk directories during scans. This results in a faster scan. It can also catch spyware hiding in compressed files.
SUPERAntiSpyware is completely free, though if you’re looking for a program that offers scheduled scanning and automatic definition updates, you’ll have to upgrade to the paid version.
Like Adaware, SpywareBlaster doesn’t remove spyware that’s already installed on your system. But it does prevent spyware from installing in the first place using web browser plugins that scan for malicious scripts and cookies that track your activity.
It comes with a couple of unique features as well:
- System Snapshot to backup and restore your machine to a previous state should any spyware manage to enter your system.
- Hosts Safe to backup and encrypt hosts files which are popular targets for spyware.
7. Emsisoft Emergency Kit
Emsisoft Emergency Kit is a small and portable option for those who want spyware protection on-the-go.
Emsisoft is only 700 MB and doesn’t require an installation to run. In addition to scanning emails and compressed directories, the program can detect and remove:
Not only that, but Emsisoft also looks for traces of spyware in your registry that can suggest potential problems in the future.
It’s a great choice for quick and dirty spyware protection.
8. Spybot – Search & Destroy
The name may sound like a cheesy 80s action film, but Spybot – Search & Destroy is one of the most complete anti-spyware solutions we looked at.
Spybot offers advanced control by blocking threats at the web browser level. It can easily disable tracking cookies that compromise your privacy.
The program also comes with some other cool features like:
- Rootkit scanning.
- Startup tools.
- System immunization by blocking access to things known to contain malware.
The “search & destroy” part refers to the system scanner that efficiently detects and removes spyware and rootkits from your system.
While powerful, Spybot is not very easy to use, so it’s not recommended for beginners or those just looking for basic protection.
What are the Risks of Spyware and How Can You Detect Them?
If you’re brand new to spyware, read this article first:
The first question you need to ask when securing your information is:
- How did spyware get onto my computer in the first place?
More often than not, a user unintentionally downloads spyware thinking it’s something else. Once installed on a device, it begins tracking personal data.
It’s now monitoring things like:
- Online browsing activity.
- Login information.
- Location information.
- Keystrokes (i.e. passwords, credit card numbers, etc.).
Spyware can infect internal storage hard drives, solid state drives (SSDs), and external storage devices like USB sticks. And even though well-designed spyware runs quietly in the background making it hard to detect, there are some red flags you should watch out for.
Signs Your PC is Infected with Spyware
- Certain programs run slower than normal.
- Pop-up advertisements suddenly appear out of nowhere.
- Your web browser redirects or refreshes itself at strange times.
- Spam emails are being sent from your account without your knowledge.
Stay on Top of Spyware
Spyware hackers are very good at their job – tracking your browsing activity and logging your personal details in order to steal your money, sensitive data, and maybe even your identity.
That’s why it’s crucial your devices are properly protected.
And while free versions are better than nothing for keeping you protected, they do come with a host of other catches like annoying ads and pop-ups.
If you’re looking for consistently high-quality protection without the hassle of ads, then check out this list of the best premium antivirus programs that we tested.