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Symantec debuts integrated anti-spyware tools

Security company releases test version of software-blocking it will begin marketing later this year as part of Net security package.

Symantec took the wraps off its consumer spyware offering on Monday, releasing a test version of tools it will soon add to its Internet security package.

The company posted on its Web site a free download of the beta version of the spyware-blocking applications, which it will make available until roughly June 1. At that time, the product will arrive as part of Symantec's Norton Internet Security AntiSpyware Edition, a midyear update of its annual computer defense applications set.

One of the primary reasons the company is letting the public try out the anti-spyware technology is to encourage people to test the software against the many free tools available to fight the problem. Spyware is a brand of malicious program that secretly loads itself onto an individual's computer to track Internet use or steal valuable personal information.

A host of other companies, including Microsoft, offer cost-free anti-spyware applications to consumers, and Symantec is determined to prove that its products are worth spending money on. Symantec's anti-spyware version of its Norton Internet Security 2005 product line will retail for $79.95, or $10 more than its existing applications package.

Kraig Lane, a Symantec group product manager, said integration with the other security tools, Norton Internet Security, along with the ability to stop spyware at the firewall, will convince customers to continue to open their wallets.

"We could have made this a standalone product, but people tend to need two or three kinds of software to cover everything they need to secure their computers," Lane said. "Customers are telling us that they are tired of needing to remember to run scans, and they know that some programs still get through the independent spyware filters."

Lane said Symantec's spyware-fighting technology works by scanning for any programs that bounce data back to their senders as they are sent through its firewall software. By predetermining most attacks, the software can better defend users than programs that search for threats after they have been loaded onto a device, he said.

"By adding anti-spyware into the integrated package, and effectively blocking any spyware at the firewall, we can solve several problems at once," Lane said. "Consumers want something that can protect them from as many threats as possible at once. Spyware is just something else that we feel we can effectively keep out."