Microsoft buys anti-spyware firm

Officials at Microsoft are stepping up efforts to help users keep spyware and other deceptive software off their computers with the purchase of Giant Company Software, a provider of Internet security products.

Microsoft officials today said they will use intellectual property and technology assets from the acquisition to provide Microsoft Windows users with new tools to protect their computers against spyware.

Spyware is an emerging breed of malicious software that ranges from unwanted pop-up ads to unseen programs that record keystrokes or take over a user's PC. About 67 percent of consumer PCs are infected with some form of spyware, according to a study from IDC released last month.

"Through this acquisition we're excited to be able to provide near-term relief to Windows customers by offering new technology to help keep spyware and other deceptive software off their PCs," said Mike Nash, corporate vice president of the Security Business and Technology Unit at Microsoft, in a statement. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Officials plan to provide a beta version of a spyware protection, detection and removal tool based on the Giant anti-spyware product to Windows users within a month. The beta product will scan users PCs to locate and remove deceptive software and also be configured to block known spyware from being installed on computers. It will be available for Microsoft Windows 2000 and later versions. Officials said the anti-spyware technology would complement the enhanced security features available in Windows XP Service Pack 2, providing a higher level of protection for Web browsing and Internet computing activities.

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