Antivirus companies target spyware, worms

Leading antivirus software makers Symantec and Network Associates (NAI) announced updates to their products on Monday, touting protection against "spyware" and Internet worms to entice customers.

Symantec, of Cupertino, California, unveiled a new version of its flagship product, Norton AntiVirus 2004. The new version of Norton AntiVirus can detect a range of snooping programs that are not technically viruses, but still pose a threat to Internet users' privacy, Symantec said.

NAI announced a new version of its antivirus software, McAfee VirusScan, continuing the race between the antivirus software vendors. The latest version of McAfee VirusScan also spots spyware and adware, allowing users to detect and remove the suspect software applications from systems running VirusScan.

Spyware and adware programs silently monitor a user's activity on the Internet, keeping track of information such as the Web sites a user visits.

Norton AntiVirus 2004 will scan e-mail and instant message attachments, flagging known spyware programs before they are installed. The program will also spot spyware and adware programs that have already been installed and report those to the user, according to Symantec.

Norton AntiVirus also flags legal adware (advertising software) programs such as the popular Gator software from The Gator Corp. of Redwood City, California, according to Kelly Martin, senior product manager for Norton Antivirus 2004.

A popular example of adware (or advertising software), Gator performs useful tasks for users such as remembering and filling in user names, passwords and other data for online forms. However, the program also tracks user behavior and buying habits for the company's customers and delivers targeted "pop-up" advertisements to desktops.

Norton AntiVirus will not automatically remove adware like Gator, which is often governed by a licensing agreement that the user acknowledged when the program was installed, Martin said.

The focus on spyware comes after research on end users identified the stealth programs as a leading concern among Norton AntiVirus users, even when users didn't know they had the programs installed, she said.

"Even if users were not able to articulate 'I have spyware,' they were telling us about dialling programs that were calling out to a third party or having their (Web browser) hijacked or the home page rerouted to another site," Martin said.

"This was a big ticket issue for our user base," she said.

Following two weeks of high-profile worm outbreaks, Sunnyvale, California-based NAI is calling attention to a new WormStopper feature. That feature enables VirusScan to spot worm-like activity such as a high volume of e-mail and repetitive e-mail content, NAI said.

While the new feature won't stop infections, per se, it will slow the spread of mass-mailing worms like the recent Blaster and Sobig.F worms, NAI said.

One security expert said that features to spot spyware are long overdue in mainstream antivirus programs.

"It's about time," said Richard Smith, an independent security analyst based in Boston.

Installations of the shadowy programs have escalated in recent years, with the growing popularity of peer-to-peer file sharing programs such as Kazaa and Morpheus, Smith said. Those programs often bundle adware programs with the main file-sharing software, he said.

Symantec, NAI and other companies that are serious about stopping spyware might benefit from snatching up niche spyware detection companies such as Enigma Software Group Inc., maker of SpyHunter.

Such companies already have large databases of spyware, adware and other programs that could jump start the detection capabilities of more mainstream antivirus products, he said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Roberts

IDG News Service
Show Comments



Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >

Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?