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AOL Touts Increased Broadband Security

On the heels of a report detailing the insecure nature of always-on broadband connections, America Online on Monday announced a slew of new security and privacy features in its upcoming AOL 9.0 release.

As rival high-speed ISP services offer discounted packages of bundled services, AOL kicked off a marketing campaign with details of its broadband security integration -- anti-virus tools, a customized firewall, spam-filtering and a new e-mail attachment scanning feature.

With the commercial launch of AOL 9.0 expected in late summer, AOL is making its move to differentiate itself from rival high-speed access providers. "The broadband world is full of wonderful things, but -- just like the offline world -- it can also be dangerous," AOL for Broadband President Lisa Hook said in a statement.

The new service arrives at a time when hacker attacks and worm alerts are on the increase and as AOL looks for an advantage in its quest to keep a lid on customer defections and snag new subscribers for its high-speed offerings.

But the new service comes with an added price. In addition to the monthly broadband fee of $35 to $55, the company will now charge an extra $2.95 per month for access to the security tools and features in AOL 9.0.

AOL's mission is to convince the broadband market that the $2.95 a month extra for anti-virus and anti-spam tools is a bargain.

The security tools in AOL 9.0 include:

  • Customized Firewall: In partnership with Network Associates' McAfee unit, AOL Broadband subscribers will get a free customized firewall. The Personal Firewall Express promises protection against hackers and unauthorized intruders. Firewall options would allow users to block access to sensitive files, financial records and personal data and create records of intrusion attempts.
  • Automatic Anti-virus Scanning: AOL 9.0 will automatically scans all e-mail attachments to detect viruses and fix or block infected attachments before they reach a subscriber's inbox. While the automatic scanning is free, AOL is also marketing a premium integrated service with McAfee Security to block infection from P2P file sharing, Web site downloads, infected CD-ROMs and disks and other multi-media files.
  • Anti-spam protections: On top of its proprietary server-side anti-spam filters, the company is adding adaptive spam filtering -- that learns and adapts to the type of e-mail that each individual member considers spam. AOL Mail will come with a new spam folder to automatically route and separate unsolicited mail and a new feature for word-specific and URL filters.
  • The new tools also promise to block images and URLs from unknown senders and control instant messaging spam (SpIM) with an IM Catcher feature that lets members decide if and when they want to view the messages or ignore them all together. Parental controls and other Access Control tools have also been upgraded, the company said.

    The campaign comes just a week after a study from the National Cyber Security Alliance showed that the vast majority of basic always-on broadband households do not have the necessary protections against intrusion.

    The NCSA study showed that two-thirds of all broadband households lacked properly configured firewalls; 62 percent did not have recently-updated anti-virus protection; and a whopping 97 percent of broadband households with children did not use parental controls.