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April 17, 2005

Symantec: spyware scrutiny

Symantec's anti-spyware protection will be packaged as a premium priced add-on to the company's Norton Internet Security 2005 desktop security suite. The spyware blocking and cleaning features will be built into the NIS application in much the same way as firewall and antivirus features are. This will be a key selling point, based on market research, according to Symantec executives.

By CBR Staff Writer

Symantec is to unveil its first consumer anti-spyware offering.

Product marketing manager Kraig Lane said: We’ve talked to customers. If they walk into a Home Depot to buy a door lock they don’t want to buy one lock to protect them from burglars and one lock to protect them from robbers.

That’s one way of telling the incumbent leaders in the anti-spyware market, pure-play providers such as Lavasoft, to watch out. Symantec will try to leverage its market-leading Norton brand and retail reach to get a grip on this new market.

Mr Lane also claims that this integration will allow Symantec to do some things that standalone anti-spyware software cannot do, namely real-time scanning that does not conflict with other security products. Mr Lane suggests, probably controversially, that competing products are in fact just doing periodic scans and making it look like any discovered spyware was found in real time.

It’s not all exuberance from Symantec, however. The company is keenly aware that Microsoft beat it to market with an anti-spyware offering, when it acquired Giant Software in December, and that Microsoft is planning antivirus this year.

So the first launch of Symantec’s offering comes in the form of a free public beta version. The same model Microsoft is using with its Giant-based offering, in fact. It’s a battle for mindshare, against each other and the shareware market leaders.

The company is also publishing its Risk Impact Model, the criteria its researchers will use to determine whether a given piece of software can be classified as spyware or not.

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The model is based on five factors, and the level of playing by the rules that tested software exhibits. The factors are: performance impact, privacy impact, ease of removal, stealth of installation, and prevalence. As the industry currently lacks a common definition of spyware, Symantec’s model will be closely scrutinized. Although it is a new player in anti-spyware, it is still the biggest security vendor, and has considerable market clout.

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