Microsoft Beta Seeks and Destroys Spyware

Microsoft today released the beta version of the anti-spyware tool itpromised when it bought the tiny security software company Giant last month.

Spyware slows down computers, often by displaying pop-up after pop-up, and itcan track user’s activities on the Web and report them back to the spywarecompanies.

It is often quietly installed on computers when users downloadother applications from the Web.

Spying for Spyware

Anti-spyware works by scanning a system for what it defines as spyware andthen guiding the user through the process of uninstalling it. For all spyware programsdetected, Microsoft’sversion gives users a description of the threat, information about where it is installed onthe computer, a risk rating and a suggested action.

In addition to the annoying and computer-slowing pop-up ads, spyware also can redirect a search and send a user tothe wrong Web site. Less common, but still lurking, are maliciousprograms such as keystroke loggers that can record personal informationtyped on a computer.

The beta of Microsoft AntiSpyware, which was released to employees earlierthis week, can be downloaded free from Microsoft’s Web site. Itsupports Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Microsoft hasnot announced if it will release the product as part of a Windows update oras a standalone product nor whether it plans to charge for it in the future.

Everyone Needs Anti-Spyware

“Obviously all PCs are affected by malware and should have malwareprotection/shielding and removal,” IDC analyst Norma Schroder toldTechNewsWorld. “Malware will try and retry to infest any PC it can get at.Maybe 50 percent of PCs — this includes consumers — are suffering seriousperformance slowdowns because of large infestations of unremoved malware.”

The anti-spyware application uses a database of potential threats that isconstantly updated and then scans the computer looking for the knownspyware. Windows AntiSpyware also prevents new spyware from being installedon a PC.

The company also announced that it would release Microsoft Windows MaliciousSoftware Removal Tool on January 11. The tool is designed to search out andeliminate worms and viruses on PCs. Updates to both applications will beavailable during Microsoft’s regular monthly releases, the company said.

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