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AOL security product ready for testing

AOL Total Care marks one of company's first steps into the security space, outside of its subscriber tools.

AOL on Monday plans to make available a first test version of a new security software bundle that it will market not just to subscribers, but to the general public.

As reported earlier by CNET News.com, the software, dubbed "Total Care," includes security and PC care features, matching Microsoft's Windows Live OneCare, launched in late May, and upcoming products from Symantec and McAfee.

AOL has partnered with a number of third-party providers for Total Care. McAfee provides the security basics: firewall, virus shield and spyware protection. PC health and tune-up tools come from Iolo Technologies, and backup features are delivered by FarStone Technology, AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein said in an interview.

The final release of Total Care, due later this year, will also include protection against identity theft and information-thieving Web sites used in phishing schemes, Weinstein said. Pricing for the product has not yet been determined.

Total Care marks one of AOL's first steps in the security space, outside of tools it offers exclusively to its Internet service subscribers. "AOL has a very strong brand in the security space, and this allows us to extend that brand to both members and nonmembers," Weinstein said.

With Windows Live OneCare, Microsoft says it has created an all-in-one PC care product by adding PC maintenance tools and backup features to the firewall, and antivirus and anti-spyware applications. In the wake of the OneCare announcement, all major security companies have said they would release similar products.

In AOL's Total Care, the PC performance technology from Iolo will help clear clutter on a PC by removing redundant files and handling hard-drive defragmentation. The backup features, from FarStone, automate backup of data to CDs, DVDs, an external hard disk drive or--when the final version of Total Care ships--an online service, Weinstein said.

The new product will have a range of support options. Online tutorials, chat and telephone support will be available at no charge, Weinstein said. A house call is also possible, at a cost, through an AOL partnership with Gurus2Go, he said.

Consumers increasingly get their security software from Internet service providers, rather than buying it from a store or online, according to research from Gartner. Last year, about 14 percent of consumer security software sales came from ISPs, up from barely 5 percent a year before, Gartner said.

Currently, AOL offers the AOL Safety and Security Center to AOL subscribers at no cost. The package includes a firewall and antivirus protection, provided by McAfee, and anti-spyware protection from CA. AOL in its Web browser also offers a phishing shield.

AOL Total Care should be available for testing, by AOL members only, via AOL Beta Central on Monday.