Symantec Software Battles Vicious New PC Enemies: 'Bots' - TheStreet

Symantec Software Battles Vicious New PC Enemies: 'Bots'

The maker of top-selling Norton antivirus products takes on 'bots' and 'zombies.'
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With the market for antivirus and antispyware products at saturation point, IT security giant Symantec (SYMC) - Get Report has extended its reach.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company launched Norton AntiBot, a new product to combat the growing scourge of "botnets," or networks of infected computers.

"Bots" are malicious programs that can infect a computer through the Internet and turn it into a "zombie," often unbeknownst to the PC owner. Zombie PCs are usually strung together and remotely controlled by a "botmaster" in a bid to launch spam email campaigns and denial-of-service attacks.

"We are seeing rapid increase in botnet infections," says Ed Kim, director of product management in the consumer division at Symantec.

More than 6 million computers worldwide last year were infected with bots, says Symantec, a 29% increase over the year before. "It's a growing and pervasive problem," he says.

Though bots are not a big part of a user lexicon the same way that viruses and spyware are, with a little help from the cybercrime specialists at the FBI, that's likely to change.

In June, the FBI said it has identified more than 1 million infected computer IP addresses as part of its "Operation Bot Roast." The agency has said it plans to notify the owners of those computers.

Symantec is hoping those victims will buy Norton AntiBot, a standalone product priced at $29.99.

Norton AntiBot is meant to complement existing antivirus or security products from both Symantec and its rivals, says Kim. The company competes with

McAfee

(MFE)

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

, among others.

And launching it as a standalone product, rather than folding it into one of Symantec's existing security suites, also allows the company to bring it to market much more quickly and access a larger base of users, he says.

Shares of Symantec closed down 6 cents to $19.74 Monday. The company reports its first-quarter fiscal-2008 earnings July 25.