Google has added a virus scanning feature to its Gmail Web mail service, complementing the existing virus protection based on blocking certain types of file attachments, such as executables.
Google informed users of the new feature on a Web page where the company announces new Gmail features.
Now, Gmail will automatically scan all attachments users send and receive, according to a frequently asked questions section devoted specifically to this new functionality -- http://mail.google.com/support/bin/topic.py?topic=1567
Gmail will attempt to clean or remove viruses from infected attachments so that users can access the attachment's information; otherwise, users will not be able to download the attachment. Gmail will also prevent users from sending messages with infected attachments.
Until now, Google has protected Gmail users by blocking messages that carry attachments commonly associated with virus attacks.
Google, in Mountain View, California, apparently posted the virus scanning announcement on Wednesday. A Google spokesman didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.
A little over a year ago, a Google official told IDG News Service that the company was working on giving Gmail virus scanning capabilities, possibly by licensing technology from a third party.
Google launched Gmail in April 2004. It is still in beta, or test, mode. To open an account, users must either request the service from Google by sending the company a text message from a mobile phone or be invited via e-mail by an existing Gmail user.