Microsoft buys tools for fighting spyware

Microsoft's announcement last week that it has purchased a small vendor of antispyware tools serves to highlight the growing seriousness of the spyware problem for users, according to security analysts.

Microsoft said it acquired New York-based Giant Company Software for an undisclosed amount and plans to use the company's intellectual property and technology assets to provide Windows users with new tools for protecting their systems against spyware.

A beta version of a spyware protection tool based on Giant Company's technology is due to be released in January for Windows 2000 and subsequent versions of the operating system, said Amy Carroll, director of Microsoft's security business and technology unit. She said the tool will be able to scan for, detect and remove spyware and other malware.

Microsoft officials haven't decided yet whether the antispyware tool will be integrated into future Windows releases or sold as a stand-alone product, Carroll said. "Our immediate job right now is to get the beta out," she added.

The acquisition addresses growing concerns over the security threats that spyware poses to corporate and home users alike, said Jon Oltsik, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass. "Spyware has become the new scourge on PC users," Oltsik said.

Vendors such as McAfee, Computer Associates International, Webroot Software and Trend Micro have begun offering antispyware tools designed for corporate users. But, Oltsik said, "Microsoft is jumping into a new market where they have as good a chance as anyone else to make an impact."

Microsoft's purchase of Giant Company is its second significant acquisition in the IT security market. In June 2003, the company bought Romanian antivirus software developer GeCAD Software SRL for an undisclosed price. Microsoft is expected to make antivirus capabilities available in future versions of Windows as a result of that purchase.

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Jaikumar Vijayan

Computerworld
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