Microsoft beefed up its security offerings, buying the anti-spyware companyGiant and announcing it would make available for free a beta version of thesoftware for Windows 2000 and later. The test version will be availablewithin a month, Microsoft said.
Microsoft will use Giant’s intellectual property and technology to developits anti-spyware product. It will also retain some of the company’s 12employees.
“Obviously, it was a company that was readily available on the marketbecause it was fairly small, but it’s also a solid anti-spyware tool,” DavidFriedlander, senior analyst, Forrester Research, told TechNewsWorld.
Future Pricing Unknown
It is unclear whether Microsoft will begin charging for the product afterbeta testing is complete. The company has not ruled out the option.While many companies — including security firms Computer Associates, McAfeeand Symantec — are getting into the anti-spyware business, the usefulnessof such software is still limited.
“Better than nothing is usually the case with these programs,” Friedlandersaid. “The big problem with anti-spyware products is they don’t have anenterprise management console. Enterprise customers need to block spyware andhave an administrative console.”
Anti-spyware works by scanning a system for what it defines as spyware andthen guiding the user through the process of uninstalling. It does notprevent the spyware from being installed in the first place.
Friedlander classified Giant AntiSpyware as “more a general purpose tool”that Microsoft could add to its arsenal. He said he believed Microsoft woulddevelop it into something like Windows Update where customers would bealerted to updated spyware definitions and be able to set them toautomatically download. Giant also makes Spam Inspector and Popup Inspector.
With the purchase of Giant, Microsoft also bought itself a relationship withSunbelt Software, a provider of infrastructure and security tools, includingenterprise anti-spyware program CounterSpy.
Alex Eckelberry, Sunbelt’spresident, told TechNewsWorld it had a “very close relationship with Giant.”
The contract between the two maps out co-ownership of the anti-spywaredefinitions and the code up through September 20, with Sunbelt having exclusiverights to the standalone definition database and software developer’s kits(SDKs) for Giant AntiSpyware technology.
“By no means is this antagonistic, Eckelberry said. “Microsoft has beenextremely friendly to deal with.”
Spyware slows down computers, often by displaying pop-up after pop-up andcan track user’s activities on the Web and report them back to the spywarecompanies.