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6/8/2007
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Symantec Moves Anti-Botnet Weapon Into Public Test

Symantec is working on new Norton AntiBot software, which is aimed at protecting desktops and laptops from becoming part of a botnet.

Symantec is getting ready to take on the botnets.

The security company released new zombie-fighting software into a public beta test on Thursday. Norton AntiBot is client-side software designed to run along conventional anti-virus products, according to Ed Kim, director of product management at Symantec.

This malware-fighting software, though, doesn't depend on virus signatures and scan-based technologies, like anti-virus products generally do. Kim said in an interview that AntiBot is behaviorial-based technology, aimed at guarding against malware and Trojans that hackers use to infect computers and turn them into zombies to join their botnet armies. He also said it's designed to tackle systems that already have become part of a botnet and weed the malicious code out of infected computers.

"There are persistent botnet threats," said Kim. "In the second half of 2006, there was a 29% increase in bots compared to the first half of 2006." He didn't have numbers for bot growth in 2007.

A botnet is a group of thousands or hundreds of thousands of computers that a hacker -- also known as a botnet maser -- has infected and taken control of. Once the botnet master can execute code remotely on an infected machine, he can string these zombie computers together to form a virtual zombie army or botnet. They can be used to send out spam, launch other malware attacks, and launch denial-of-service attacks.

The botnet masters make money by renting them out to spammers or hackers. The bigger the army of infected computers they control, the more money spammers and hackers will pay to use them.

The Norton AntiBot beta trial started Thursday. Kim could not say how long it would run, noting that the product could be officially released as soon as July or as far out as September. A price has not been set.

Anyone interested in participating in the beta can sign up at this Web site.

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