Google on Tuesday made moves to beef up its Google Pack service. The free collection of software applications now includes antivirus, antimalware, and antispyware tools.
Google Pack provides basic virus protection from Symantec's Norton Security Scan, which offers automatic security updates and scheduled scanning. No subscription fee is required. The company also added PC Tools' Spyware Doctor Starter Edition, an antispyware utility that offers scheduled scanning, threat removal, active protection, and automatic updates.
The new additions are in line with Google Pack's aim to make it easier for users to find, install, and update software. A Google Updater keeps the programs up to date.
"It is almost always a benefit to security to have that kind of defense in-depth. Having this sort of free security products through Google is a great benefit for users," said Jen Albornoz Mulligan, an analyst at Forrester Research. "This offering is impressive."
Google is responding to a demonstrated need. According to Symantec's most recent Internet Security Threat Report, home users or "the everyday Internet user" made up the most highly targeted sector, accounting for 93 percent of all targeted attacks.
The Google Pack version of Norton Security Scan is designed to remove all existing viruses, Trojans, and worms found on a user's PC and provide tips on how to improve PC security. Norton Security Scan replaces Norton AntiVirus 2005 Special Edition, which was part of the initial lineup of software when the Google Pack first launched in 2006.
Meanwhile, the free Google Pack edition of PC Tools Spyware Doctor offers on-demand spyware detection and removal as well as real-time protection. Users can choose to upgrade to the full version, which features the File Guard module.
With so many different vendors offering security, some might wonder whether you can install too much of a good thing. Indeed, downloading too many different security applications could slow a PC, Mulligan said, and there is a limited benefit to having multiple services running at the same time. "Symantec and McAfee share a lot of their information and oftentimes scan for the same threats," she added. "But if it doesn't slow your computer down then there's no real downside."
In a customized social networking-style play, Google also added the Photos Screensaver, which allows users to turn their screen into a digital picture frame of sorts, to display photos from family and friends or images from other photo-sharing sites.
"Now you can turn your computer into a digital picture frame that displays pictures from photo feeds -- continuously updated streams of photos from the Web. Many of your favorite photo-sharing sites support them already, so it's easy to keep in touch with your friends and family this way," Google Product Manager Jesse Savage wrote in the company's official blog.
Google Pack's growing lineup of free products also includes Google Earth, Google Talk, Picasa, Google Desktop, and the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer. Google also has packed in third-party applications, such as Mozilla's Firefox browser and Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Google Pack Beta is available in 12 languages, runs on Window XP and Vista, and supports Internet Explorer 6.0 and Firefox 1.0 and higher.