Sunbelt Scoops Up Google-like Spyware Sniffer

The anti-spyware vendor calls the Web-crawling technology a "mini Google" for spyware and says it will enable researchers to identify new outbreaks more quickly.

Anti-spyware vendor Sunbelt Software said it acquired Web-crawling technology that will enable its researchers to identify new spyware outbreaks more quickly.

The company plans to announce Monday that it bought technology from Prospect Smarter Inc. of Tampa, Fla., for an undisclosed sum.

The crawling technology, which Sunbelt calls SPECTRE, is like a "mini Google" for spyware, according to Alex Eckelberry, Sunbelts CEO.

SPECTRE will automate a part of Sunbelts spyware research process, allowing the companys researchers to update spyware definitions for its CounterSpy anti-spyware product more quickly.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read eWEEK Labs review of Sunbelts CounterSpy Enterprise.

The purchase will help Sunbelt keep pace with spyware authors, who are creating an endless stream of new "variants" of their programs to fool detection tools, Eckelberry said.

Like virus variants, the duplicate spyware programs are functionally identical to each other, but have slightly different characteristics, prompting database updates by anti-spyware vendors, he said.

Prospect Smarter makes software for marketing professionals. SPECTRE was initially designed exclusively for software giant Microsoft Corp., which used it between 1999 and at least 2001 to sort through long mail-order marketing lists and find organizations that were using older versions of its software, including Windows and the IIS (Internet Information Services) Web server, said Steve Tingiris.

Prospect Smarter provided the technology to Microsoft as a managed service, which it called "Host Auditor."

Microsoft used the data gathered by the crawler to help sell upgrades and do cross-selling of the companys technology, he said.

At Sunbelt, the technology will be adapted by Sunbelt for use finding spyware, said Eric Sites, vice president of R&D.

The software can look for patterns in Web pages, such as scripts that perform specific actions, as well as executable programs that match known spyware, he said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifTo read more insight about the problem of spyware and adware, click here.

SPECTRE will be integrated into Sunbelts research process in coming weeks, after Sunbelt develops tools to help sort through the huge amounts of data that the crawler pulls in, Sites said.

The irony of a Web marketing company contributing technology to a company that often sets its sights on Web marketing companies and their software isnt lost on Tingiris, who said he relished the opportunity to strike a blow against spyware.

"Im glad its being used (to hunt spyware). Legitimate marketing companies have been hurt by all the crap thats out there," he said.

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