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Microsoft will make antispyware software free of charge

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Microsoft Corp. will give away software to battle spyware, adware and other privacy-invading pests, company co-founder Bill Gates said Tuesday.

In a speech to security experts, Gates said spyware and other invasive programs are becoming a major threat to the future of computing. Users often unknowingly accept spyware when they install free software without reading its accompanying licensing agreements.

Last month, the company released a free test version of Microsoft AntiSpyware, which was based on technology from a firm it acquired in December. But it had not announced whether the technology would be free in the final release.

``Spyware ... is something we need to nip now,'' Gates said. ``We made the decision that all of our Windows licensees should have that (antispyware) capability. I'm excited we got this technology and it addresses a burning need for our users.''

The program also includes a feature where users can submit information back to Microsoft so that it keeps up with the latest threats. This option proved to be incredibly useful during the test run, Gates said.

``We get half million reports each day,'' he said. ``That's the data we use to make sure we're on top of these things.''

Gates, who is now Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect, also said the company will make a paid version of its antispyware technology available to companies that need more advanced control over their systems.

Gates spoke at the RSA Conference, which is sponsored by Massachusetts-based RSA Security Inc.
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