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A trial version of Microsoft software designed to rid Windows PCs of spyware is provoking complaints about false alerts. Microsoft said it is working with other vendors to resolve teething troubles with its Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware application, released to the public as a beta earlier this month.

According to Romanian anti-virus firm BitDefender, the first beta version of Microsoft's software wrongly detects a BitDefender ScanOnline object as being a piece of spyware called "Brilliant Digital". BitDefender spokeswoman Ioana Spiridonica said a legitimate remote desktop utility called Real VNC as an item of spyware, a false diagnosis also spotted by Reg reader Christopher Scott.

MS AntiSpyWare alert screengrab

The process of beta testing is designed in large part to highlight potential conflicts, which crop up from time to time even with established security products (examples here and here).

Nonetheless BitDefender's Spiridonica is unhappy about Microsoft's lack of urgency in handling its complaint, submitted ten days ago. "Having your application described as spyware is similar to libel. I'm sure it will be fixed in the end but other affected companies were treated the same, Microsoft would face litigation over monopolistic manoeuvres," she said.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said it has a process in place to work with other vendors to look into issues and help resolve them. Vendors should go file out a vendors contact and report form (obtainable here) if they have an inquiry, she added.

Microsoft has noted "potential issues with enterprise administration tools" in release notes for its Windows AntiSpyware product but it is yet to comment on problems with consumer apps. We gave Microsoft's Windows AntiSpyware a quick try on a Windows XP machine. Downloading the app involved accepting an ActiveX control and going through an irksome registration process. However once installed the app worked as advertised, even showing some improvements from free anti-spyware tools such as Spybot Search and Destroy in term of user interface and information about threats detected.

Your mileage may vary, however. ®

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Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware (beta)

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