AOL: We've Got (New) Anti-Virus Services

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America Online and Network Associates are rolling out a premium anti-virus service for AOL subscribers that goes beyond checking attachments and works with AOL's broadband firewall service.

AOL already offers attachment-scanning as part of its monthly service. But the latest premium anti-virus service provides users with an elevated level of protection in order to protect against infection from peer-to-peer file sharing, Web downloads, infected CD-ROMs and disks, and multi-media files, AOL officials said.

The service, dubbed McAfee VirusScan, is offered through Network Associates' McAfee Security unit and costs $2.95 a month.

It also works in conjunction with the free firewall service that AOL offers its broadband subscribers.

The enhanced scanning service arrives as the cost of fighting escalating amounts of spam and malicious viruses increases, prompting expectations that more of the costs of providing increased protection will be passed along to ISP customers.

Like McAfee's own virus-scanning services, the AOL VirusScan offering provides an ongoing update and system-scan report to subscribers each week, letting the user know whether any of the latest viruses, Trojans, worms and other malicious code threats have been detected on their computer.

AOL said its own surveys show that a majority of respondents are not aware of their computers' vulnerability to Internet security threats and that only half of all U.S. homes that are online use anti-virus software.

After the subscriber downloads the virus protection program, the service automatically updates the user's PC with newly developed upgrades and virus definition updates, every time the member is online.

The service also checks and scans all virus sources including the AOL member's hard drive, any disks put in the PC, CD-ROMs, multi-media files, Web downloads, DVDs and java applets, AOL said. Once infected files are detected, the service launches automatic file quarantine and cleaning.

In addition to the regular scan of the AOL member's hard drive performed by the new service, members can also scan specific files, zipped files, folders, subfolders, drives, downloads, DVDs, and CD-ROMs at any time. When an infected file is found, members have the option to clean, delete or quarantine it.

The new service is part of an increasing trend among Internet service providers to bundle in protective services for their members. Major broadband providers such as Cox Communications, the cable company offering high-speed Internet connections, and fellow cable provider Comcast, have recently rolled out firewall and anti-virus services to their members.

In Cox's case, the anti-virus offering is also McAfee's VirusScn Online, the same branded version that AOL is offering. Comcast recently rolled out bundled firewall services to its high-speed data customers.

Meanwhile, anti-virus use is apparently on the rise too. Central Command, which also creates anti-virus software, reported that the number of computer infections of the Worm/Klez.G virus, which is consistently rated among the most widespread virus, dropped to its lowest level since it was first discovered.

In April of 2003, the Worm/Klez.G worm accounted for 18.7 percent of all virus infection reports, the company said, compared to April of 2002 when it accounted for 79.2 percent of all computer infections.