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Google buys browser-based malware scanner VirusTotal

The database of infected sites and other pests will likely bolster Google's existing security services.

Google has acquired Web-based  URL scanner VirusTotal in what may be an effort to improve browser security.

VirusTotal's service is pretty simple: Just visit the Website and either select a file to scan or paste in a URL. Also available are a Windows desktop application and browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.

In a blog post, VirusTotal says it will operate independently from Google and will keep its partnerships with other antivirus companies and security experts. The company says Google can help improve the service and "ensure that our tools are always ready, right when you need them."

Google told TechCrunch in a statement that it can provide VirusTotal with "the infrastructure they need to ensure that their service continues to improve." The terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

As with so many tech company acquisitions, Google isn't saying what it hopes to get out of the service, but since VirusTotal isn't the only link scanner around, the service itself may not be what Google's after.

This is just speculation, but the value in VirusTotal may be in its partnerships with antivirus companies and the dataset it creates for all scans. Google already screens search results for unsafe Websites, warns Chrome users about potentially malicious sites, and scans e-mail attachments for viruses. The search giant may improve its existing security services using VirusTotal's data, so it'd make sense for Google to keep the service alive and let its dataset grow.

Even if the acquisition never becomes a tangible product for users, it seems like good news for safer Web browsing.

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