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Security Task Manager may detect malware which other tools miss

03 February 2012, Mike Williams

Your system is misbehaving, and you think there’s a good chance it’s been infected by malware, but your antivirus package isn’t raising any alerts. So what do you do next?

One option is to install the trial version of Security Task Manager. This can display all your running processes and rate their potential risk, but this is based purely on behaviour and code analysis, no signature files are required – and so it may highlight dangerous processes which other tools miss.

The program will also raise plenty of false alarms, unfortunately, and that’s all down to the way it works. On our test PC, for instance, it gave the entirely innocent “Microsoft SharePoint Workspace Extensions” process the second-highest rating. Why? Clicking it displayed the program’s various risk factors: it could monitor our Internet browser, recorded user input, had an invisible window, didn’t include a detailed description, and so on. These are all characteristics of malware, but many legitimate processes may have them too, so you can’t take Security Task Manager’s ratings too literally: they’re a pointer for initial investigations, that’s all.

See all your running processes rated for their potential security risk

Still, having said that, the program does make those investigations easier than they might otherwise be. If you click on a process, for instance, you’ll see any text contained within that file. Right-clicking it reveals an option to run a Google search for that process name, and you can also upload the file to VirusTotal for a more thorough check with all the main antivirus tools. (This isn’t exactly well automated, however; the program will open VirusTotal.com in a browser window, but then you must manually paste the file path into the box before you’re able to upload it.)

Is the program really worth its $29 asking price, though? We’re less sure about that, even as a one-off fee (there are no annual subscription features here): it just doesn’t feel like you’re getting enough to justify that level of expense.

Security Task Manager does have a 30-day trial version available, though, so perhaps the best idea is to simply give it a practical trial when you’re next having malware detection or removal problems. And if it can help you to find or remove a threat which you’d have missed otherwise then maybe the program really does deserve a place in your permanent security toolkit.

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