PestPatrol Helps AOL Stomp Spyware

America Online Inc. is deploying anti-spyware technology from Computer Associates International Inc. in a new version of its client software.

America Online Inc. is deploying anti-spyware technology from Computer Associates International Inc. in a new version of its client software.

AOL last week announced ASP (AOL Spyware Protection) 2.0, which uses CAs eTrust PestPatrol Anti-Spyware technology to scan AOL users systems for 28,000 kinds of spyware. PestPatrol allows AOL to scan customers systems more frequently for spyware—as frequently as once a minute—and gives CA a new base of 20 million AOL users, the companies said.

AOL members who use AOL 8.0 and later versions and who downloaded the ASP software will automatically receive the update when they sign in. Customers can also obtain the update from AOL using the keyword "Spyware," AOL officials said.

AOL debuted anti-spyware features in May 2004, using technology from Aluria Software, of Orlando, Fla., as well as an internally developed anti-spyware tool called SpyZapper, said Andrew Weinstein, a company spokesperson.

AOL decided to change to CA because the PestPatrol database is much larger, enabling AOL to use SpyZapper to spot more variants of spyware than the "handful" it detected previously. PestPatrol can also scan systems more often and more quickly, allowing AOL to add minute-by-minute scans that look for spyware running in the computers memory, as well as daily scans of AOL customers computers. Weekly "full drive scans" that used to take "a couple hours" take minutes with PestPatrol, Weinstein said.

AOL members cite spyware as a top concern. The Dulles, Va., company blocks and deletes millions of spyware programs from its customers computers every day, Weinstein said.

AOL chose PestPatrol in part for its large database of spyware applications, but the company plans to let its users decide what spyware is and what it isnt, Weinstein said.

For example, when Aluria stopped detecting adware from WhenU Inc., AOL insisted that Aluria restore detection for WhenUs software because close to 95 percent of AOL users removed the products when they were found, Weinstein said.

CA, of Islandia, N.Y., has also attracted criticism after the company temporarily stopped detecting programs from Claria Corp.

Weinstein said AOL will be able to add or remove programs from CAs spyware definitions for AOL users, which will not affect CAs other customers.

"The No. 1 source of feedback we get regarding what is spyware is our members," Weinstein said. "We want to keep that as the key decision point."

A CA spokesperson acknowledged that AOL requested the ability to add or remove definitions and cleaning instructions from the CA spyware knowledge base to make sure that new and emerging threats can be added at AOLs discretion.

AOL will be expanding its "honeynet," a network of computers that attract and capture spyware samples, which PestPatrol uses to create anti-spyware signatures, said Sam Curry, vice president of eTrust security management at CA.

CA will also use AOLs 20 million members to add to the spyware knowledge base in the future. The company hopes its new relationship with AOL will help establish common ground on what is and isnt spyware, Curry said.

A recent dispute between search engine Ask Jeeves Inc. and anti-spyware vendor Sunbelt Software hinged on the way Ask Jeeves bundles Web browser plug-ins and discloses the function of those plug-ins to users. However, other anti-spyware vendors, such as Webroot Software Inc., dont consider such factors.

"One problem is that theres a real lack of standards. Two different [anti-spyware] applications can give you wildly different numbers," Curry said.

AOL and CA are members of the Anti-Spyware Coalition, an industry group sponsored by the Center for Democracy and Technology. "Hopefully, some good will come of that as well," Curry said.