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12/16/2004
12:46 PM
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Microsoft Buys Anti-Spam, Anti-Spyware Software Company

The company, Giant Company Software, uses software and a feedback loop of sorts to identify new spyware threats on a daily basis.

Microsoft has bought a software company that makes anti-spyware and other security applications. Details of the purchase of Giant Company Software Inc. are hard to come by, but Microsoft says a free beta app based on Giant software will be available for Windows customers in a month.

The application is being described by Microsoft as a tool that will protect against spyware as well as detect and remove spyware already on a PC running Windows 2000 or newer operating systems.

Spyware is a small app that can put an innocuous pop-up ad in your way or can log your keystrokes and send that information to someone who wants your passwords. Between those extremes, accumulated spyware bogs down PCs like plaque in arteries. Microsoft has said that spyware is behind half of all PC crashes.

Gordon Mangione, corporate VP of Microsoft's security products, says the company's site has had a page of anti-spam tips and links to other vendors' tools. And it also put some anti-spam software in Windows XP SP2, he says. But Giant's products were further along in maturity than anything Microsoft had available.

Giant's products use spyware-signature databases, real-time security agents, and a "community" function that helps feed the databases and agents. Customers can opt in to a process in which they send suspected spyware to Giant, which investigates the nature of the code, Mangione says.

The software alerts the person to questionable code and asks if it should send the code to Giant. Confirmed spyware is added to the spyware-signature database. Updates of the database are automatically distributed to customers daily. Mangione says the planned beta will be a strong weapon in the growing battle against spyware.

And a battle it is. Once primarily the tool of unscrupulous marketers, spyware is a popular tool in the lock-picking satchel of true criminals. Phishers, criminals who steal personal information and passwords, are using spyware with other cybercrime tools to commit exploits.

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