Microsoft is investigating a malicious program that attempts to turn off the company's newly released anti-spyware software for Windows computers...

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REDMOND – Microsoft is investigating a malicious program that attempts to turn off the company’s newly released anti-spyware software for Windows computers.

Stephen Toulouse, a Microsoft security program manager, said the program, known as “Bankash-A Trojan,” could attempt to disable or delete the spyware removal tool and suppress warning messages. It also may try to steal online banking passwords or other personal information by tracking a user’s keystrokes.

To be attacked, Toulouse said a user would have to be fooled into opening an e-mail attachment that would then start the malicious program. He said the company had not seen any evidence so far that the program is widespread.

Toulouse said Microsoft was recommending that users who believe they might be infected use antivirus software, such as products made by Symantec Corp. or McAfee Inc., to try to remove it.

Microsoft has said it plans to offer its own paid antivirus software, but it has not yet set a date for that release.

Microsoft AntiSpyware is currently being offered in test form, and about 6 million people have downloaded it so far. The free product aims to help users find and remove spyware, or programs that can secretly monitor a users’ Internet surfing habits, spew out relentless pop-up ads and slow computer performance