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Check Point beefs up spyware defences

Behaviour blocking with a twist

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Check Point Software is to build improved spyware defences into the next version of its ZoneAlarm integrated consumer security software package. ZoneAlarm Security Suite 6, due to be released 18 July, will feature a spyware scanner and an "operating system" firewall.

Gregor Freund, chief technology officer at Check Point, and founder of Check Point's Zone Labs subsidiary, described the technology as "behaviour blocking with a twist" that added to existing network and application firewall components of the suite. By providing spyware signature updates through a service called SmartDefense Advisor Check Point aims to make behaviour blocking easier for consumers to use. The technology will eventually also make its way into Integrity, ZoneAlarm's enterprise security software client.

Spyware - invasive programs that generate pop-ups, hijack home pages, redirect searches and poison DNS files - has become a top security threat to consumers and corporates alike over the last 18 months or so. According to IDC, 67 per cent of all computers contain some form of spyware. Spyware applications secretly forward information about a user's online activities to third parties without a user's knowledge or permission.

Anti-spyware scanning software alone won't deal with the problem because any approach that "let's the bad things happen and focuses on cleaning up afterwards is going to fail," according to Freund. Removing spyware and adware from infested machines or blocking infection in the first place has become a lucrative market and Check Point is going to have plenty of competition to contend with in both the consumer and enterprise security markets. Anti-virus vendors are looking to carve out a piece of the action. Trend Micro's May acquisition of InterMute follows Computer Associates' acquisition of PestPatrol in August 2004.

Organisations facing the mounting nuisance of spyware can also choose from specialist hardware (from the likes of Blue Coat, Fortinet and others) or a managed filtering service (from ScanSafe or others). That's to say nothing of Cisco's ongoing efforts to embed anti-malware defences into networks.

In January, Microsoft released an anti-spyware software beta following its acquisition of Giant Software a month earlier. Microsoft plans to build anti-spyware technology into the next version of Internet Explorer (IE 7), which is due to begin beta testing this summer.

Zone Alarm Security Suite 6 features anti-spam software from MailFrontier and anti-virus technology from Computer Associates as well as personal firewall technology from Check Point's Zone Labs subsidiary in an integrated security suite. English language versions of the product will sell for around $69 with German, French and Spanish language versions due next month. ®

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