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Google beefs up security portfolio with VirusTotal buy

Promises to play fair with anti-virus vendors

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Google has bought online malware-scanning firm VirusTotal and is pledging to keep the service open to support security software vendors.

"We've worked hard to ensure that the services we offer continually improve. But as a small, resource-constrained company, that can sometimes be challenging," the security firm said in its "Inside VirusTotal's Pants" blog. "So we're delighted that Google, a long-time partner, has acquired VirusTotal. This is great news for you, and bad news for malware generators."

VirusTotal was set up in 2007 and uses over 40 different antivirus engines to scan files and URLs for malware for free. Users can upload small files for checking, or just input a URL, to see if it's on a blacklist, and VirusTotal shares its results with other security vendors to allow them to beef up their defenses.

The computer security industry is unusual in that its members share some of its most valuable data – malware signatures – with competitors. This ensures that new malware is tramped down quickly and the rising tide of security raises all boats. Even Microsoft shares its data, so Google's confirmation is a good sign for the industry.

Google didn't say how much it is spending to purchase VirusTotal, but it has pledged that it will continue to share information from the service with other vendors. It's not saying how it will be integrating the VirusTotal technology, but safer searching and better malware security for its Apps platform look the most likely bets.

"Security is incredibly important to our users and we've invested many millions of dollars to help keep them safe online," a Google spokeswoman told El Reg. "VirusTotal also has a strong track record in web security, and we're delighted to be able to provide them with the infrastructure they need to ensure that their service continues to improve." ®

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