Microsoft makes available its own anti-spyware tool

Microsoft makes available its own anti-spyware tool

Three weeks after announcing its acquisition of Giant Company Software Inc., Microsoft Corp. has released its own beta version of the company's AntiSpyware tool.

Microsoft announced Thursday that Windows AntiSpyware is available for free download from its Web site. The tool is intended to detect and remove existing spyware, as well as provide protection from future exploits. The company also announced plans to make a free comprehensive malicious code removal tool available Jan. 11.

Microsoft disclosed the Giant acquisition Dec. 16 and did a review of the software to ensure it met the company's standards for a beta release product, according to a spokesman in the company's Security Business and Technology unit.

'Beyond that, we are not prepared to comment on the differences between the Giant AntiSpyware and Windows AntiSpyware offerings,' the spokesman said. 'This is a beta and we anticipate that we will continue to modify the software based on customer feedback before we release a final version of it.'

The beta is available for Windows 2000 and later versions of its operating system. There is no timeline for releasing a final version.

Microsoft said it would continue to support current customers of the Giant product and advised them to continue using it.

Spyware is a program that gathers information about the host computer's activity and sends it to a third party, often without the user's knowledge. This information can be used to harvest personal and financial data and to deliver pop-up ads to the screen. Free software downloaded from the Internet frequently carries spyware, which most users regard as a nuisance, if not an invasion of privacy.

AntiSpyware uses signatures to scan a user's PC for known spyware programs and removes them. New signatures can be downloaded automatically. The tool also blocks installation of new spyware by guarding more than 50 avenues used by Web sites and other programs to install it.

Many signatures come from the AntiSpyware users group SpyNet. AntiSpyware users have the option of joining SpyNet when installing the program. SpyNet offers them the option of automatically notifying Microsoft when a possible spyware program is found.

Microsoft's malware removal tool will automatically get rid of known viruses and worms, including a variety of variants of Blaster, MyDoom and Download.Ject. The company describes it as a consolidation of a number of tools previously released separately to remove an individual virus or worm. The tool will be offered as a high priority update through Windows Update and Auto Update, through an online interface, or as a download from the Microsoft Download Center for larger corporate customers.

The tool will be updated on the second Tuesday of each month as a part of the company's monthly software security update process.

The malicious software removal tool does not eliminate the need for antivirus protection on PCs, a market Microsoft is expected to enter soon.

Antivirus vendor Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif., issued a tepid, carefully worded response to the Microsoft announcement.

'This tool will help create greater awareness of viruses,' the statement said. 'Symantec as well as all major security vendors have offered free virus removal tools for years. These tools are critical once a system has been infected, but they don't protect a system from getting viruses.'

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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