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Updated The bad days of global email viruses are over, if a crack team of software scientists are to be believed.

The defence evaluation and research agency (DERA) is due to launch a piece of software today called ::Mail that will prevent email viruses from spreading by controlling what is sent out from email programs, instead of what comes in.

DERA is an amalgamation of defence research projects and has very close links with the UK government, especially the Ministry of Defence. Covering such areas as Defence, Aerospace, Marine, Transport, Human Sciences and Telecoms & Media, the group claims credit for radar and LCDs among other things.

The ::Mail software comes from its specialist software branch, the Software Engineering Centre and is based on research conducted by the group on how to protect sensitive government documents from electronic attack, the Guardian says.

The solution has grown from the release of email viruses which spread incredibly quickly by accessing address books and sending themselves to every name listed. Most famously of course there was the ILoveYou virus and more recently the Kournikova virus.

Virus companies have always worked on the principle of stopping viruses from reaching the inbox in the first place, but DERA's software intervenes only when email is sent out.

In the case of the ILoveYou virus, you would receive a message telling you every time an email was being sent out. You would have to click OK before the email was sent. Thus, you would be infected but no one else would receive it.

It's an excellent approach. However, it would have to be used in conjunction with traditional anti-virus software or your machine would quickly be wiped out by old-style viruses. The race will soon be on for someone to produce a combined product. And then of course virus writers will have to find another way of spreading mayhem. DERA claims its software has rock solid security but then everyone says that.

DERA has yet to get back to us with regard to the technical side and compatibility of the software or its expected cost. ®

Update

Ironically, an independent inquiry into DERA in 1998 found that while the physical security at its offices was excellent, its electronic security was "non-existent". This fact was what had enabled DERA techies to send 170,000 porn pictures to one another within a three-day period. When the huge porn swapping was reported, just two of 200 receivers of the material were nobbled - the others had managed to conceal their identities.

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