RealTime IT News

Grisoft Grabs Exploit Prevention Labs' Link Scanner

Antivirus vendor Grisoft continues the trend toward multi-faceted security offerings with its acquisition today of Exploit Prevention Labs, developer of a link-scanning utility.

The companies said the deal, terms of which were not disclosed, should close by Dec. 31. All 18 of the two-year-old firm's employees will join Grisoft's roster of 280.

More importantly, Grisoft's acquisition of Exploit Prevention Labs -- or XPL as it's called -- gives the company control of the smaller firm's flagship offering, LinkScanner.

The product follows Web page hyperlinks to determine if they connect to known hosts of malicious software or have suspect code behind them.

LinkScanner works much like Cloudmark Desktop does for e-mail spam, in that users report suspicious links to XPL, which then adds those links to its database of suspect sites.

Click on the graphic for a larger view of LinkScanner

Grisoft founder and CEO J.R. Smith said that his company, which markets an antivirus solution called AVG, had considered developing its own hyperlink scanner but decided an acquisition was the quicker way to market.

"For me, this is a must-have," he told InternetNews.com. Dangerous links "are the new threat vector we will all need to worry about over the next two to three years."

Smith said emerging threats to search engines and social networks require such link-checking technology. Those threats include the wide array of malware couching itself in search results -- which prompted an effort by Google to fight back -- or the recent MySpace hacks.

"The whole fabric of the Internet can be highly disrupted, which can cause huge losses for companies like Google and Yahoo and MySpace," he said.

The two firms expect to merge their core products together, so customers of Grisoft's AVG antivirus product will get a version of LinkScanner for free.

The pairing comes during a year when Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro and ESET have all expanded beyond mere antivirus protection to offer a suite-like approach to security.

The agreement also could dramatically benefit LinkScanner's malware reporting efforts. Sixteen-year-old Grisoft, which has said it's the fourth-largest antivirus vendor behind Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro, claims 62 million customers for its AVG products.

Roger Thompson, chief research officer for XPL, said he's looking forward to taking advantage of that large user base.

"We block the exploits and have a community intelligence network that users can take part in to tell us where the bad things are," he told InternetNews.com. "By the time all [AVG users] get to using [LinkScanner], the bad guys won't be able to sneeze without us knowing it."

Similarly to Grisoft's AVG lineup, XPL offers two LinkScanner versions, a free edition called LinkScanner Lite and a $29.95 commercial product, LinkScanner Pro.

Grisoft plans to continue selling the Pro product separately while LinkScanner Lite will be incorporated into AVG's free offering.