Lately I've seen more and more innovative methods for protecting your computer from the hostile environment on the Web. It is getting clear that the traditional anti-virus and anti-spyware applications will slowly begin to lose ground as easier ways of protection are discovered.WindowZones
and BufferZone Security Pro
are just two of the best examples that come to my mind. These applications break the traditional rules of computer protection against malware and bring new methods for securing your computer against all sorts of nasties.
Here comes another competitor: Shadow Defender is the newest kid on the block and also approaches a different malware fighting method. It simply does not allow them to find a residence place on your computer. Price tag reads $35 and you benefit from a 30 days trial period granting you full access to all of its features.
As complicated as the field of malware protection may seem, Shadow Defender's application window is a cinch to manage. There are no bells and whistles as the program is created for efficiency against malware settling down in your system.How it works
Shadow Defender's protection concept is very easy to grasp. For the software to do its job properly you have to place the disks installed on your computer into Shadow Mode. By doing this, the application will take a snapshot of the disk and run every file in virtual mode. You will have the same access to the files on the disk but any write action will be virtual. This means that no matter how many worms and spyware you infect your computer with, they will not affect the real system at all because of the virtualization. Once you snap out of this "parallel dimension" every change to the system and the files on the disk will be discarded.
The conclusion in this sense is that the computer will not be affected by any change and no malicious files will be written to the PC. The greatest thing is that you can choose what can actually get stuck on the disk while in Shadow Mode. More than this, you can decide in advance what files and folders should not benefit from Shadow Mode protection.
As I said before the interface is quite simple and there isn't too much thinking to be done while using it. The set of options is running down on the left hand side of the application window and there are only five tabs to handle. The first one, System Status, displays all the available partitions on the disk(s) and their state (Normal Mode or Shadow Mode). Mind that USB keys are not supported, but you can plug-in an external hard drive with absolutely no problem, regardless if the file system is FAT32 or NTFS.
Besides the current status of each detected disk drive, Shadow Defender's System Status window will also show details about them. Thus you'll get the total capacity of each drive and the amount of free space in GB and percentage.
Lower in the window there is the Exclusion list which shows the files and folders on each partition that have been left outside Shadow Mode by the user. But we'll get to this later on.
Mode Settings tab is where you enable and disable Shadow Mode for computer drives. The flexibility of the software allows you to place only some of the partitions under protection, leaving the others outside. On the downside you will not be able to disable Shadow Mode only to some of the drives. You either do it for all of them or no do it at all.
The hint window in the lower par of the screen warns you of the effects of the Shadow Mode, meaning that all changes made while active will not be committed to the original drive.
Exclusion List is the place where you get to place some files and folders outside Shadow Mode. Adding them in the list will cause absolute normal behavior in what concerns disk writing. Any change in these locations will be committed to the original volume with no warning whatsoever. But be advised that this operation can be done prior to Shadow Mode enabling. Afterwards all the options (Add File, Add Folder, Delete and Apply) will be greyed out.
But there is a way to commit changes in protected mode and Commit Now window will give you a hand. This window is exactly like Exclusion List but acts differently. Here you can add files and folders to be written to the original disk while in protected mode. So if you have downloaded a file you want to keep, then this is your way out.
Be careful with both Exclusion List and Commit Now as adding a large amount of files can lead to errors from the application. During testing we added a 27GB folder and the application could not take the operation to the end (one of the files could not be found). Useless to say that half an hour later Shadow Defender was still on the job and my computer crawled like an earthworm on the pavement.
Administration is the last option on the list. It deals with the general settings of the software. There aren't many settings available so you'll have to do with starting the application with Windows, add shell extension to shell menu (comes in handy when committing a file or folder to be written to the original drive) and enable password control. Another option is "Enable desktop tip" which will let you know if the drives are currently in Shadow Mode or not. The visual alert is very discreet (a blue "Shadow Mode" tip) but the trouble is that it is placed in all four corners of the desktop which is kind of nagging especially if you have some icons pinned in the left side of the screen.
I have to say that having a shell extension is quite an asset when working with Shadow Defender. You no longer have to open the application and add the file/folder the traditional way. Exclusion and Commit now commands are at a right click of the mouse.
No matter the changes that take place in
Shadow Mode, when exiting it and returning to normal mode all the modifications will be lost unless you commit them to the original drive.The Good
The application is very easy to handle and it does not take at all long to enable Shadow Mode. While protection is active no change will be made to the original drive. So this means that you no longer have to worry about the tracks left behind after a browsing session (cookies, temporary files, account details etc.).
Shell extension makes it easier for you to enable committing changes of a file or folder to the drive.
Although in Shadow Mode, everything on the computer works normally, as if nothing has happened, but nothing can be written on the original drives.The Bad
There is no way to remove the protection for some of the drives while leaving others enabled as the exiting Shadow Mode requires rebooting your computer.
Saving the change of big folders to drive is time consuming and a computer resource hog.
Shadow Mode tip is displayed in all four corners of the desktop and it is kind of a nag.The Truth
Although I have seen other forms of non-traditional protection, I have to say that I'm impressed. The simplicity of the application and the ease of use are truly amazing. There are a few mischiefs on board but time and a new version will definitely fix them.
The greatest pitfall of the application is that you have to reboot your computer after exiting Shadow Mode, but I guess this is a must for now.
It makes a good companion both for protecting you against spyware as well as for performing different tests on shady or instable applications as there is no writing to disk.Here are some snapshots of the application in action: