Microsoft announces anti-spyware acquisition

20 Dec 2004

In a further sign that spyware is becoming a major IT security threat, Microsoft has acquired US-based Giant Company Software, a provider of software tools to combat the presence of unwanted monitoring programs on users’ PCs.

Microsoft did not divulge the terms of the agreement, but announced that it plans to use the technology acquired in the deal in a forthcoming release. Within the next month it will provide Windows users with a spyware protection, detection and removal tool, based on Giant technology.
Spyware, which takes many forms, is considered to be a growing security issue. Its presence on a system can noticeably slow the performance of a PC. Some spyware tools log usernames and passwords or steal personal information. Others allow identity theft to happen, with the compromised information then at risk of being sold to a third party. Autodialler programs are also considered to be spyware. A recent estimate from IDC suggested that as much as 67pc of consumer PCs are infected with some form of spyware.

Mike Nash, corporate vice-president of the security business and technology unit at Microsoft, said: “Through this acquisition we’re excited to be able to provide near-term relief to Windows customers by offering new technology to help keep spyware and other deceptive software off their PCs.”

The upcoming release, which will be a beta version, will scan a PC to locate spyware and other deceptive software threats, allowing customers to remove them. According to Microsoft, the tool will be configurable to block known spyware and other unwanted software from being installed on the computer. It will be available for Windows 2000 and later versions. Microsoft hasn’t yet revealed further plans for the product such as delivery dates or pricing details.

Ron Franczyk, co-founder and president of technology at Giant Company, said that the software works through a combination of spyware-signature databases, real-time security agents as well as a ‘neighbourhood watch’ feature to protect users.

By Gordon Smith