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Microsoft's malware removal tool fuels speculation

While the free product is consumer focused, it has generated some industry buzz about the future direction of Microsoft's security efforts.

The malware removal tool made available last week by Microsoft has not made a big impact on the enterprise, although it has generated considerable speculation about what the software company's next steps may be.

"We've taken a good look at it and it's not enterprise-ready yet," said Jeff Graham, product manager at St. Bernard Software Inc., in San Diego. "It will work for some people who don't mind going system to system. It's absolutely the path that everyone is headed down."

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Microsoft intended for the malware removal tool to be deployed by end users who don't have antivirus software already installed on their machines, not as a tool to be deployed across the enterprise. "The vast majority of the enterprises have an existing antivirus solution," said Stephen Toulouse, security program manager with the Microsoft security response center. "It's really geared toward consumers, but can be used in the enterprise. If you have the SMS [Systems Management Server] product, this can be used in combination with SMS in order to get it out on the enterprise."

Microsoft has been moving to expand into the antivirus and antispyware market recently. The company announced its purchase of Romanian antivirus software company GeCAD Software in late 2003, and last month it acquired antispyware maker Giant Company Software.

"It's not really a surprise that Microsoft did this, especially after their acquisition of the antivirus company," Graham said. "We were all waiting to see what would happen, and now with this acquisition, it's becoming a little more clear. How they [plan to] make all of this available to their users is still not clear."

Toulouse did not reveal whether the company would be shipping enterprise-grade antispyware, malware removal or antivirus products any time soon. "We'll certainly be looking at the feedback coming out of this particular tool," he said. "The enterprise solution at this point, it's really around antivirus software in general, and that's certainly something that we're strongly recommending. It should be viewed as part of [an] in-depth security strategy. "

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