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Partners push virus vaccines

Virus updates will find users, instead of the other way around, through a new deal between McAfee and "push" technology vendor BackWeb.

Virus updates will find users, instead of the other way around, through a new deal between McAfee Associates and "push" technology vendor BackWeb.

On Monday, the two companies plan to announce a service that will automatically deliver regular updates of virus protection software to McAfee customers using BackWeb's Internet broadcast technology. The service, called SecureCast, will also transmit virus alerts and technical information to users, according to a spokesman for the company.

SecureCast illustrates how companies are increasingly exploiting Internet broadcast technology to distribute software, in addition to news headlines, whizzy graphics, and advertisements. The leading Internet broadcaster, PointCast, pioneered the "push" method of automatically sending content to users. But broadcast newcomers, such as Marimba and BackWeb, have tuned their server and client software to better deliver ActiveX controls, Java applets, and other programs to users.

For McAfee, SecureCast could solve a significant problem: keeping its customers up to date with the latest virus inoculation software. Beginning Monday, users of the company's VirusScan software will be able to test a beta version of the service on McAfee's Web site.

The site will contain a BackWeb agent that users download to their computers. At regular intervals, the agent will check in with McAfee's servers and download any new virus updates or other relevant information. Once they are downloaded, new virus updates will appear on a user's desktop.

A spokesman for McAfee said that the company discovers 200 new viruses every month.

SecureCast will be free for VirusScan users. The company also plans to experiment with a monthly fee that will give users the application and regular virus updates, rather than requiring users to purchase the application outright. The company has not decided how much the monthly fee will be, a spokesman said.