AOL, MSN, Earthlink to block spyware. Take that, Casino On Net!


Dormant account
Dec 12, 2000
UPDATE - America Online to add spyware protection
Tuesday January 6, 7:54 pm ET
By Lisa Baertlein

(Adds details, comment)
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 6 (Reuters) - America Online said on Tuesday that in the coming weeks its Internet services will include a feature that helps users detect and delete "spyware" that secretly tracks Web surfing habits for marketers, and in the worst case could lead to identity theft.

The announcement from AOL comes as MSN, Microsoft Corp.'s (NasdaqNM:MSFT - News) online division, rolls out a spyware security feature to current users and follows by several months the launch of spyware-blocking capabilities from rival EarthLink Inc. (NasdaqNM:ELNK - News).

AOL, the online unit of New York-based Time Warner Inc.(NYSE:TWX - News) which has been fighting to curb customer defections, is using anti-spyware technology from Aluria Software. The new security feature will be available when the company releases a big upgrade to AOL 9.0 in the next few weeks, company spokesman Andrew Weinstein told Reuters.

EarthLink, in partnership with Webroot Software, has had the services since October, spokesman Jerry Grasso said.

MSN this week is expanding the availability of its spyware offering to new users. That technology is provided by Network Associates Inc.'s (NYSE:NET - News) McAfee consumer security division, a Microsoft spokesman said.

Weinstein said the MSN offering is similar to what AOL has offered for months, and that AOL's beefed-up technology will provide far more protection against spyware than what MSN offers. A Microsoft spokesman countered, saying MSN's offering through McAfee is a full-service anti-spyware software package.

Internet service providers say spyware is the largest undiagnosed problem on the Web, akin to spam in magnitude.

A study last year by the National Cyber Security Alliance found that 91 percent of broadband users have spyware or adware on their home computers, and that in most cases it surreptitiously found its way there via music or file-sharing programs.

Spyware programs have rapidly spread as companies look for ways to gather personal information to use in targeted marketing and advertising campaigns that help boost sales.

While many spyware programs do not pose great security risks, newer keystroke logging programs track what Web users type while they're logged on and can tease out such sensitive information as social security numbers, e-mail addresses, financial account numbers, and passwords.