After several months of testing, Yahoo last week released an enhanced version of its Internet-services toolbar that now comes with a feature for removing often unwanted software such as spyware and adware.
As users surf the Web, these types of programs are often downloaded automatically to their machines without their consent and knowledge and perform unwanted actions, such as tracking users' Web usage and launching pop-up ads.
When it was first introduced in May, Yahoo's enhanced toolbar was criticized because it didn't by default scan for adware, instead leaving it up to users to instruct the program to do so by choosing this as an option. That is no longer the case with the version released this week, which by default scans for adware, as well as spyware and other types of similarly intrusive and stealthy software, such as tracking cookies.
Although some people consider spyware and adware as equally noxious, others maintain that by definition spyware programs are more intrusive and dangerous than adware. In its toolbar's Help documentation, Yahoo defines spyware as programs that "can track how you use your computer or surf online without your permission" and adware as software that "presents popup/popunder ads."
After scanning for this type of software, the Yahoo toolbar lists the programs it found, categorizes them, provides information on them and gives recommendations on which ones are potentially malicious and harmful and should definitely be removed, and which ones should be further evaluated. The scanning software is provided through a partnership with Pest Patrol.
The enhanced Yahoo toolbar with the Pest Patrol software can be downloaded for free at http://toolbar.yahoo.com. The toolbar's existing features include a search engine box, a button for blocking pop-up ads and shortcuts to a variety of Yahoo Internet services such as e-mail, calendar, notepad, games and the Launch online music section of Yahoo's portal.