AOL takes aim with security software

This summer AOL is expected to add security software to its repertoire. Two tools in development will provide users with firewall, antivirus and antispyware security, and will likely rival similar products from Symantec, McAfee and Microsoft.

AOL, based in Dulles, Va., began test runs for its Active Security Monitor tool, which screens computers for security risks and offers advice in improving protection.

Testing began May 26 for the free diagnostic. The Security Monitor reviews the risk level of PCs, determining how susceptible they are to viruses, spyware, theft, network intrusions and other online threats. The software will continuously review PCs and home networks, and deliver security scores to the users. The software will also list recommended products that will resolve the risks cited in its report, and offer alerts concerning security threats.

A second tool in the works, “Total Care,” should be available to software testers later this month. AOL is developing the security package to compete with Symantec and McAfee products along with Microsoft’s recent Windows Live One Care, which operates as an all-in-one PC care product with firewalls, virus and spyware protection. And other leaders in the security industry are expected to follow suit with similar all-in-one packages.

Gartner projects that a rising number of ISPs will try their hand at security software. According to a Gartner study in 2005, 14 percent of consumers sought ISPs for their PC protection—a number up 5 percent from the previous year.

AOL currently offers—free of charge—firewall, antivirus antispyware and phishing protection to its users through the AOL Safety and Security Center. But the ISP is expected to market the new tools to the public. Testing is underway for Active Security Monitor and should be available within the month; AOL plans to begin testing Total Care within the next few weeks.