Anti-spyware tool to become standard issue for Windows

Anti-spyware tool to become standard issue for Windows

SAN FRANCISCO'Microsoft Corp.'s new AntiSpyware tool will be available at no charge to all Windows users, company chairman Bill Gates said today.

"Spyware has been on the rise and is a very serious problem," Gates said during his keynote address at the RSA Security Conference. "All of our Windows licensees should have this capability."

Gates also announced a new version of Internet Explorer that will include significant security upgrades, an antivirus product and more streamlined versions of software update systems.

The initiatives follow the release five months ago of Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, a major security upgrade of the XP operating system. Gates said there have been 170 million downloads of the service pack.

"That has gone super, super well," he said. But deployment in large enterprises is a long-term process that is far from complete.

"For our corporate users, we have a nuanced message," he said. "If you have machines that are behind a firewall, the urgency is not as great as for mobile machines that are going outside and hooking up."

Microsoft AntiSpyware is a result of the company's acquisition in December of Giant Company Software. The company released the initial beta version last month and is readying a second beta now.

"We have gotten very positive feedback on the beta," said Amy Roberts, Microsoft's director of security, business and technology. There is no date for a general release. "There is clearly a lot of work we have to do," she said.

AntiSpyware includes a scanning and removal capability, as well as a blocker to halt the download of malicious programs. Microsoft is developing a library of signatures through the SpyNet system, which lets users report suspicious programs to company researchers.

There have been 6 million downloads of the first beta, and about 3 million of those users participate in SpyNet. Microsoft receives about 500,000 reports of suspicious code each day.

The next version of Internet Explorer browser will be independent of next year's release of the next Windows OS. Microsoft expects plans to roll out an Explorer beta by early summer. It will be available to all users of Windows XP running Service Pack 2.

Security features in Version 6 of the browser, which the company released with Service Pack 2, focused on vectors of attacks, Roberts said. Version 7 will focus on preventing specific attacks, such as URL spoofing that can make phishing easy.

The company wants to simplify updating software with the release of Microsoft Update. It will replace Windows Update. Update is a consumer service but provides only patches for the operating system. The new service will be broader and include patches for Microsoft Office and other applications. The beta is slated for release next month.

Microsoft now is in the process of acquiring Sybari Software Inc. of East Northport, N.Y., which makes Antigen. Microsoft eventually will roll out its own antivirus product based on the Sybari tools.

"Our plan, because Sybari solutions make use of multiple scanning engines, is to also include Microsoft's engine as one of them," Roberts said. This will be included in a product for release later this year, she said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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