Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Computer Associates International launched its first set of anti-spyware products on Monday, retooling the applications it acquired from PestPatrol for both corporate customers and consumers.
The Islandia, N.Y.-based software maker introduced its eTrust PestPatrol Anti-Spyware r5 product in three different packages, aimed at small and medium-size businesses, enterprise companies and consumers, respectively.
While the business-oriented products stand as updates from the anti-spyware applications marketed by PestPatrol before the CA buyout, the consumer package marks the first time the technology has been tailored specifically for home users by either company.
Sam Curry, vice president of eTrust security management at CA, said the company has identified more than 1,200 new strains of spyware in the last month alone and indicated that about half of the 28,000 strains in the company's database were detected over the last eight months—a sign of the growing threat of the nefarious software.
Spyware applications are typically installed without a user's permission via Web browser exploits or e-mail programs, with the intent of surreptitiously tracking computer usage, stealing personal information or sending spam.
Among the primary changes CA said it made to the PestPatrol technology for business customers are improved reporting capabilities, faster spyware scanning tools and expanded customer support. The corporate version also provides security administration controls to manage protection for large numbers of desktops. In addition, executives said that CA has reworked the products' licensing terms for companies.
The PestPatrol interface has been redesigned in the consumer package to make it easier to use by people who are not IT professionals, CA said. For instance, the Anti-Spyware r5 software, which will retail for $39, enables people to set up automated scanning schedules and receive reports on what has been fixed. That contrasts with a process where they would have to manually fix and test systems using a readout of what the software had found.
Curry said that consumers are finding that Spybot and other anti-spyware applications available for free download over the Internet can no longer tackle all varieties of spyware. He believes that customers will be willing to pay for tools that do a better job.
"The most important thing for people to realize about spyware is that it doesn't function like a virus, where you can find it and clean it off your computer fairly easily," Curry said. "When you look at spyware, there could be hundreds more points of infection. It may not be as life or death to your computer as a virus, but there are certainly big implications about how personal a spyware attack can be."
While many companies have identified spyware as a major concern, research shows that few are using technology specifically designed to combat the problem. In a nationwide survey of IT managers and executives released by Equation Research, 70 percent expressed growing concern over the issue, but fewer than 10 percent said they have installed anti-spyware software.