EarthLink tool hunts down spyware

The company's Spy Audit software is intended to ferret out unwelcome programs that take up surreptitious residence on PCs.

EarthLink on Wednesday announced a spyware detection tool for Internet users.

The company's Spy Audit software is intended to ferret out unwelcome programs that take up surreptitious residence on a computer's hard drive, typically when someone downloads freeware or shareware but also through e-mail and instant messaging. Those programs keep track of a computer user's online activity and can be difficult to locate and remove.

Problems that arise from spyware's presence can range from the annoying--a barrage of pop-up ads--to the menacing, including the potential for data corruption and theft of personal information.

Spy Audit analyzes the contents of a hard drive and provides a report of spyware programs it finds. In October, EarthLink began offering its subscribers a free program called Spyware Blocker that it says provides protection against a number of hidden applications.

Last week, America Online said it plans to bundle anti-spyware programs into its upcoming AOL 9.0 Optimized software for both narrowband and broadband users.

"Spyware is a growing problem, and we are pleased that other (Internet service providers) are following our lead and recognizing the importance of implementing anti-spyware technologies," Rob Kaiser, vice president of narrowband marketing for EarthLink, said in a statement.

The 300KB Spy Audit program can be downloaded at no cost from EarthLink's Web site.

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