Free tool from Team Cymru aims to help fight malware

Non-profit internet research firm says WinMHR tool will bring PC protection to third-world countries that need more security

The non-profit, Chicago-based internet security research firm Team Cymru (pronounced 'kum-ree') will release a new tool next month that it hopes will be a game changer in the fight against world-wide cyber crime.

The tool, called WinMHR, utilizes the techniques to check a Windows PC for malware through Team Cymru's Malware Hash Registry, a directory of files that have already been identified as malicious by anti-virus software vendors and security researchers. Malware signatures are constantly updated by Team Cymru, so there are never any signature updates to install. No files or any of their contents are sent across the network, only hashes, according to Steve Santorelli, director of global outreach with Team Cymru.

Read about Team Cymru's work to battle botnets around the globe in 3 basic steps to avoid joining a botnet

"It checks files against a central database that is one of the most comprehensive in the world," said Santorelli. "It might not sound like much, but that's never been done before and it's an approach that might well tip the balance in favor of those of us that fight against computer crime."

Anyone, anywhere running the latest Windows XP, Vista, or 7 can download WinMHR and use it; and that also includes corporate use. However it is not intended to replace existing anti-virus software on a PC. Instead, the MHR provides an additional layer of detection to the PC, said Santorelli.

"It's designed to augment existing AV and give you information that helps folks, geek and non-geek alike, make decisions that will protect them from harm."

Santorelli said the tool builds on Team Cymru's mission, which is to make the entire Internet more secure, more aware, and more reliable through education and community outreach. The hope is the free tool will catch on in places like Africa and parts of Asia that often don't get the attention of the major AV vendors.

"Africa at least is on the cusp of a massive explosion of bandwidth, connectivity and Internet usage due to heavy investment in trans-oceanic cabling and other infrastructure," said Santorelli. "The continent has some passionate and very capable security engineers, but we do see signs that Africa might repeat some of the mistakes of some more developed regions as they grew their Internet usage in the last few decades. It's been said that some vendors might not see developing nations as a market worth devoting much time to. We're not a vendor and we see these geographic areas as absolutely the most deserving of our help."

The tool is expected to be available for use on September 6th and will be available through the Team Cymru web site.

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