Saying that online safety is now its customers' primary concern, Microsoft will offer McAfee virus scan and firewall products to U.S. customers of its upcoming MSN Premium broadband Internet subscription service.
The software giant said Friday that it sealed a deal with intrusion prevention provider Network Associates to include the company's McAfee VirusScan and Personal Firewall Plus products with the MSN Premium service due out later this year.
America Online has also enlisted Network Associates to provide the McAfee products to its customers and Yahoo, which offers broadband service in the U.K. with British Telecommunications under the BT Yahoo Broadband brand, has said that it plans to add antivirus and free firewall products to its service.
The added security measures are particularly important for broadband users, Microsoft said, who have an always-on connection and are vulnerable to viruses, worms, and Trojan horses transmitted through file sharing, Web site downloads, and instant messaging.
McAfee's VirusScan product is automatic antivirus software that detects potential threats and prevents them from infecting users' computers, whereas the firewall product acts as a barrier between a user's PC and the Internet.
U.S. customers of the upcoming MSN Premium service will receive both McAfee products as part of their subscription, Microsoft said. The company did not say whether the expanded security features would eventually be available to subscribers outside the U.S.
The move to bolster broadband customers' online security comes amid wider promises by the software maker to shore up its security efforts and on the heels of a wave of damaging worm and virus attacks that have heightened consumers' awareness of the threats.
"This collaboration between Microsoft and McAfee is welcome news because our research shows that home broadband connections are most susceptible to attacks," said DK Matai, chief executive of U.K. security company mi2g.
Helping Home Users
Matai said that most companies have antivirus tools in place but home users aren't as savvy at protecting their PCs. However, no matter how much money is put into bundling antivirus products with broadband services, the biggest problem is getting home users to download security patches to protect against potential threats, Matai said.
The "MSBlast" worm that circulated recently infected hundreds of thousands of machines even though a patch was available, he said.
Matai suggested incorporating an automatic patch download program for home users. For now, however, antivirus, and personal firewall products are a step in the right direction, he said.