Microsoft to release Spyware tool

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Andrew Pratt, Dec 17, 2004.

  1. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

    Dec 8, 1998
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    WASHINGTON (AP) - Microsoft Corp. disclosed plans Thursday to offer frustrated users of its Windows software new tools within 30 days to remove spyware programs secretly running on computers. But it might cost extra in coming months.

    In a shift from past practice, the world's largest software manufacturer said it may charge consumers for future versions of the new protective technology, which Microsoft acquired by buying a small New York software firm. Terms of the sale of Giant Company Software Inc. weren't disclosed.

    Spyware is a category of irritating programs that secretly monitor the online activities of Internet users and can cause sluggish computer performance or popup ads.

    Microsoft, whose Windows operating systems have often been criticized for lax security, traditionally has given consumers - at no charge - separate programs to improve security. It also has increasingly built other protective tools, such as firewall software, into Windows to repel hackers.

    The company's upcoming tool, available for its Windows XP and Windows 2000 software, will sweep for spyware and offer to remove suspicious programs. It also will continuously protect a computer against new spyware threats, said Mike Nash, vice-president of Microsoft's security business unit. Rival anti-spyware tools, such as Lavasoft Inc.'s popular "Ad-Aware" product, offer similar functions and many are free.

    Microsoft's tool, expected to be available within 30 days, initially will be free but the company isn't ruling out charging for future versions. "We're going to be working through the issue of pricing and licensing," Nash said. "We'll come up with a plan and roll that out."

    The security efforts, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars, are aimed at promoting consumer confidence in its flagship Windows products - which generated nearly $3 billion US in revenues this year. They also help attract new customers worried about growing threats from viruses, hacker attacks, spam e-mails and spyware.

    "Because Microsoft has a near monopoly, they don't have anybody to compete against. Giving away free stuff is a side effect of being a monopoly, whether they like it or not," said Daniel Geer, a prominent security expert and one of the company's most vocal critics.

    Microsoft's disclosure that it may eventually charge extra for Windows protection reflects a recognition inside the company that it could collect significant profits by helping to protect its customers.

    Some experts blame Microsoft for Windows vulnerabilities that help spread spyware. Microsoft and some others, meanwhile, said blame should be directed instead at spyware manufacturers.

    "Spyware usually gets on your computer through human error," said Marc Maiffret of eEye Digital Security Inc., which regularly discovers serious Windows flaws.

    Alan Paller, research director for the SANS Institute in Bethesda, Md., a computer-security organization, compared Microsoft's new anti-spyware tool to sophisticated products sold to help manage computer networks. "It's not just a clean-up-our-mess tool," said Paller.
  2. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

    Jan 10, 2000
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    Somehow, the idea of Microsoft possibly charging extra for protection that helps alleviate the security weaknesses inherent in other Microsoft programs almost sounds like a potential conflict of interest. Why worry about holes in your program when you can charge to patch them?

    I realize that Giant anti-spy software is currently available and is not free, but it's not part of Microsoft, so Microsoft does not profit when somebody buys Giant. But now that Microsoft has apparently acquired it, Microsoft would profit from each Giant sale. Somehow, I don't like the idea of Microsoft writing the software that is full of holes, then selling the software to patch the security holes that shouldn't be there in the first place.

    Steve K.
  3. CRyan

    CRyan Screenwriter

    Feb 9, 1999
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    Most spyware is really not due to security flaws is it? I thought it was more of a problem from malicious "free" programs installing other software for advertising and logging. Linux users would get spyware too if they took the time to write the software for that OS.

    C. Ryan
  4. Todd H

    Todd H Go Dawgs!

    May 27, 1999
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    Real Name:
    Spyware uses flaws in Internet Explorer to install itself in the background without you knowing about it when you visit certain websites. Adware, on the other hand, is usually included with other programs and is installed at the same time. Technically there is a difference between the two, although most people tend to group both of them together.

    And I agree with SteveK about Microsoft charging for spyware programs when it's flaws in their software that allows this in the first place. [​IMG]
  5. John Watson

    John Watson Screenwriter

    Jul 14, 2002
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    Spyware authors and all malware personnel should be drawn and quartered.

    So should Bill Gates for creating a monstrous Windows that is waaaay too hard to manage.

    I don't trust government to take over the system, but it's obvious we are no better off with a monopoly like Microsoft pulling the strings of the Matrix.

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