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The three biggest anti-virus vendors have teamed up with testing labs to develop standards for spyware detection.

Trend Micro, Symantec and McAfee are joining forces with ICSA Labs and Thompson Cyber Security Labs in a bid to standardise methods for sharing spyware samples and testing anti-spyware products and services.

The effort is aimed at curtailing a possible source of user confusion before it becomes a problem, as well as driving up standards for detection across the anti-spyware industry. Spyware testing, modelled on schemes the anti-virus industry has been running for years, will also make it easier to compare the efficacy of various anti-spyware products, at least in theory. The group’s anti-spyware testing methodology and best practices can be viewed at Spywaretesting.org.

The initiative is one of a number of cross industry efforts aimed at co-ordinating the fight against spyware - the invasive programs that track user's surfing habits or, in the worst cases, steal their personal information, such as credit card or Social Security numbers. Last week Google and others agreed to back a scheme to put pressure on purveyors of unsavoury programs through a name and shame initiative, called StopBadware.org.

Earlier this month, the Anti-Spyware Coalition (ASC), an alliance of software companies, security firms and consumer organisations, agreed on a set of guidelines for detecting invasive finalised spyware. Spywaretesting.org will use the definitions created by the ASC and work closely with its kindred organisation in efforts to develop guidelines for research tools. ®

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