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New freeware takes some mystery out of rogue files

Endpoint security provider Bit9 today unveils a free search engine that tells users a file's origin, thus helping reduce unwanted software on desktops, laptops and servers.

Wondering about a weird file on your desktop or laptop? Now there's a way for you to solve the mystery -- for free.

Endpoint security provider Bit9 Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., today unveiled a free search engine to identify software files on Windows computers. The freeware is part of a new software launch to help enterprises get a better handle on the proliferation of suspect software that keeps popping up on networks via downloads, such as spyware, to desktops.

"One of the big problems with unsanctioned software is that it can cause a computer to go haywire," said John Hanratty, Bit9's co-founder and current vice president of marketing.

Once the free utility called FileAdvisor is installed, a user can right-click and select from an additional menu item to run a search of Bit9's 250 million file records (and growing). A user need only enter a name or hash to discover what the file likely is and, importantly, whether or not it can be trusted based on who made the file, what the application is, what commercial software packages contain it and how many instances of it are in the marketplace. This is done by matching it against that massive database.

"This information is valuable in understanding what something is and whether or not it should be on your desktop," said Bit9 president and CEO George Kassabgi in a prepared statement.

The ultimate goal is to allow security administrators to identify wanted and unwanted applications, from device drivers to system files.

The company's database boasts 4 terabytes of data that's expanding by 1 terabyte a month. That represents 25 million unique files and 250 million file records, the company said Monday. That data is culled from the Web, physical media and partnerships with companies like IBM. NIST's National Software Reference Library Reference Data Set, or Special Database 28, and the Justice Department's Hashkeeper database also are used.

FileAdvisor is part of Bit9's new ParityCenter service, which provides a central Web-based data center for easy file queries. The company specializes in flagging malicious or unwanted applications at on laptops, desktops and servers.

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