Gmail gets security upgrade

Google bolsters security for its e-mail program, but only long after rivals offer similar message-scanning features.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
Google has launched a security-scanning application for Gmail, its 20-month-old e-mail service.

High-capacity Gmail will automatically scan for viruses and spyware each time a user sends and receives a message, according to an information page on Google's site. Many of Google's competitors in the e-mail sector, such as Yahoo and Hotmail, introduced similar security software some time ago. A test version of Gmail was launched in April 2004, and the company made its official debut last spring.

It's unclear why the company has waited until now to offer an antivirus application. Previously, Google blocked transmission of executable attachments, but its new antivirus program offers broader protection.

A Google representative did not return a call Friday morning for further details.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has increasingly had to consider security risks as the search engine's profile has exploded. The search giant has increasingly become a target of hackers in the past few years, and Google has quickly found that security hobbyists and professionals are very willing to find and publicize flaws.

If a virus is found in an attachment, Google's antivirus software will attempt to scrub the file so that the information on the file can still be read, according to an information page on Google's site. If it fails to remove the virus, the software will lock the file so that it can't be downloaded.

The software will also prevent a user from sending an infected file, Google said.