AOL is giving consumers a free anti-virus software package, dubbed Active Virus Shield, powered by technology from Kasperesky Lab.
No AOL membership is required to use the service, though users are obliged to submit their email details in order to activate the technology.
Although free anti-virus packages already permeate the market, most notably Grisoft's AVG, coverage is far from universal, so AOL's entry is welcome.
A US study by the National Cyber Security Alliance last December found that more than half (56 per cent) of the participants either had no anti-virus protection or had not updated it within the last week.
Active Virus Shield offers protection against viruses, spyware, malware and Trojans before they attack, as well as real-time scanning of files and email. Signature updates are updated "every hour", a significant difference from other free packages that offer far less frequent updates.
The software comes bundled with a free security toolbar for IE users. The toolbar includes a a password manager, pop-up blocking technology, and a link to the Whois domain registration database that allows users to find more information about potentially suspicious sites.
"The consumer PC security experience is long overdue for re-invention." AOL Digital Services president John McKinley said. "With so many consumers online with inadequate security safeguards, it is time to make things like virus protection a fundamental right, not a risk."
AOL's anti-virus software promo is the latest give-away in its strategy of becoming more like a portal, such as Yahoo!, and less like a conventional ISP. Last week, AOL announced plans to give away integrated email and software, security and other products as part of a strategy to drive more traffic to its sites and ramp up advertising revenue.
In recent days, AOL has offered web users 5GB of free storage online and a range of web-based security products (via AOL Safety and Security Centre) to which it is adding Active Virus Shield as a software download. Free products including personalised email domains, video and search, as well as an update of its AOL software, are promised over coming weeks. ®