Symantec unveiled a free beta of Norton Antibot, a behavioural-based real-time defender meant to catch the kind of threats traditional antivirus products miss.
The beta, which runs only on Windows XP and Vista, will be launched next month as a stand-alone title, said Symantec director of product management Ed Kim. "Over time, we'll roll this into our line, but we wanted to go to market as quickly as possible," Kim said. A price has not yet been set for the final. Integrating Antibot with its existing consumer software, such as Norton Internet Security or Norton 360, would have taken more time.
Antibot is based on technology from Sana Security, which sells its own version called Primary Response SafeConnect for US$29.95. "This is very cutting edge stuff from a behavioural detection standpoint," said Kim. "And it's a perfect complement to any existing antivirus or internet security product. It's an additional level of protection."
Unlike antivirus software, which relies either completely or at least extensively on fingerprint-like signatures to detect and delete malware, behavioural-based defenses monitor the PC for evidence of unusual conduct. Behavioural tools, sometimes dubbed "heuristic," watch for events such as unexpected writes to the Windows registry, a just-spawned process, or a change to a system file. Recently, they've come in vogue as the best defense against botnets, which flood mailboxes with an ever-increasing number and variety of Trojan horses and other malware, hoping that by producing tens of thousands of variations they can overwhelm slow-reacting software.
Antibot can be downloaded from Symantec's site; the product's status screen states that it's a 15-day trial, but a Symantec spokeswoman said when that term expires users will be able to extend the test time. The beta will expire for good when the final launches in July.