Tech Industry

AOL uncloaks anti-spyware software

America Online announces the addition of anti-spyware software as part of future upgrades to its flagship online service.

America Online on Tuesday announced the addition of anti-spyware software as part of future upgrades to its flagship online service.

As previously reported, AOL will introduce its anti-spyware programs into upcoming versions of its AOL 9.0 Optimized software for both narrowband and broadband users.

The software will disable programs that are unknowingly installed on one's computer to monitor Web surfing behavior. There are many different forms of spyware and its more common relative "adware."

Many of these programs are installed along with digital video viewers and file-swapping programs. Some of the malicious types of software can record keystrokes and sensitive information and then send the data to a third party.

In the past three years, the number of spyware programs on the Net has shot up 13-fold, according to security software company PestPatrol.

Offering anti-spyware software is another way for AOL to differentiate itself from competitors and boost the appeal of its online service. The changes come at a time when AOL has lost millions of its dial-up subscribers to cheaper alternatives and to broadband services. In the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2003, AOL lost 688,000 dial up subscribers.

In response, AOL is launching variations of its service, such as its Netscape ISP, to cater to discount Internet service provider customers. AOL has also been beefing up its online service with flashier graphics and more rich media to appeal to broadband users.

CNET News.com's Stefanie Olsen contributed to this report