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Grisoft buys into web based exploit prevention

AVG UK And Ireland : 05 December, 2007  (Company News)
Acquisition of Exploit Prevention Labs enables Grisoft to enter the market for protection against malicious web pages using the latest screening technology.
Grisoft has announced the acquisition of Exploit Prevention Labs, a pioneering developer of safe surfing technology that protects Internet users against malicious web sites and drive-by downloaded exploits. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. The deal is expected to be finalised by December 31st 2007.

"Unsafe hyperlinks and the poisoning of legitimate websites represent one of the biggest threats facing computer users since the advent of viruses," said J.R. Smith, CEO of Grisoft. "The research and technology behind Exploit Prevention Labs' LinkScanner product family will enable us to provide our 60-plus million users with access to the most complete protection against internet security threats. Our combined operations will give us the dual advantages of fast reaction and deep research capabilities over other vendors attempting to address this space."

The acquisition will allow Grisoft to leapfrog the safe surfing initiatives of other anti-virus vendors, who have focused on database-driven approaches that are incompatible with the dynamic, elusive nature of these threats. Exploit Prevention Labs' experience has shown that real-time analysis is the most reliable method of protecting users against fast-moving Web 2.0-style attacks by cybercriminals.

"Web exploits are a dynamic problem that requires a real-time solution," said Roger Thompson, co-founder and CTO of Exploit Prevention Labs. "In today's Web 2.0 world of user-generated content and hyperlinked-everything, a web page can be safe one minute and dangerous the next. LinkScanner technology provides definitive real-time threat protection at the time that matters most - when the user clicks the link."

The need for real-time solutions and fast reaction times has been particularly clearly demonstrated over the past few weeks with the exploiting of Alicia Keys' and other musicians' MySpace pages and the infective banner ads that appeared on major sports information sites.

Grisoft has grown rapidly over the last few years to become the world's fourth largest vendor of anti-virus software measured by installed user base. Much of the company's growth can be attributed to the frustration of Internet users with the traditional "big three" anti-virus products, which they view as having become bloated, slow and resource-intensive. The high-performance AVG product range, by contrast, is optimized to provide superior anti-malware protection while minimizing the impact on a computer's performance. Like the AVG products, the LinkScanner family is extremely lightweight in terms of system resource usage.

"Since our initial investment in 2005, Intel Capital has provided technical assistance and introduced customers to Grisoft," said Marcin Hejka, investment director for Eastern Europe. "We are pleased to see their continuing success as an Internet security leader and congratulate the company on this acquisition."

Most of Exploit Prevention Labs' 18 employees - including key executives Roger Thompson, Greg Mosher and Chris Weltzien - will join Grisoft. Roger Thompson becomes Chief Research Officer (CRO), Greg Mosher becomes VP of Engineering, and Chris Weltzien becomes VP of Business Development.

Short-term product integration plans include adding LinkScanner technology to AVG Anti-Virus Free and offering LinkScanner Online, a free on-demand URL scanning service, directly from the AVG web site. Grisoft also expects to maintain LinkScanner Pro, Exploit Prevention Labs' flagship product, as a standalone offering.

Grisoft and Exploit Prevention Labs will combine their threat research operations, providing research centers on three continents (North America, Australia, and Europe) offering AVG users the benefit of around-the-clock malware research 365 days a year.

Exploits are the digital equivalent of letter bombs - they are packages of drive-by-downloaded software code that contain any number of different types of malware such as Rootkits and password-stealing keyloggers.

Cybercriminals create or acquire and distribute these exploits to steal users' digital assets such as bank account log-ins, credit card numbers, brokerage account information and social security numbers. Unlike traditional virus writers who write malcode for thrills and bragging rights, the cybercriminals behind exploits are out to make a profit.

Internet users become infected by exploits simply by visiting poisoned web pages, including trusted and legitimate web sites that have been hacked by cybercriminals. Exploits are silent - the user often has no clue their computer has been infected; often, the first sign of infection is when the victim notices mysterious activity in financial accounts.

These threats are termed exploits because they exploit vulnerabilities in software products - most commonly operating systems and browsers, but increasingly also affecting media applications like QuickTime and utilities like WinZip. Microsoft's "patch Tuesday" monthly security updates are now routinely followed by "exploit Wednesdays," underscoring the need for agility by security vendors to effectively protect users.
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