User group calls for anti-virus early warning alerts

Vendors don't seem very happy

Virus Bulletin A grassroots organisation representing the interests of corporate users has received a frosty welcome from the anti-virus community.

Avien.org, which was represented by IT admins from Boeing, Ford and KPMG during a keynote presentation at Virus Bulletin yesterday, generated mutterings of discontent by stating that its early warning alerts picked up the spread of dangerous viruses three hours before vendors.

Together Avien represents firms with three million PCs, so it carries a lot of clout.

Avien provides a forum for end users to share experiences, product issues and, most importantly, early warnings (EWS) alerts on possible viruses.

On the face of it Avien's wish list for anti-virus products that work in the real world, an end to vendor-squabbling and specific product improvements on management and automatic detection (among others) seem eminently reasonable. In most sub-sectors of the IT industry their requests would be closely listened to, and likely heeded.

But this is the anti-virus market, where the vendors know best and customer requirements (according to members of Avien we talked to) can sometimes be secondary.

Questions from anti-virus vendors showed they were uncomfortable with welcoming Avien into the community, which an industry delegate we spoke to freely admitted was "closed" and "Masonic".

No AV vendors are allowed to become members (though a handful subscribe to the early warning alerts). This decision generated some plaintive questions, even though wider vendor membership would (at the least) stymie debate.

A representative from Symari, which specialises in scanning messaging systems for viruses, said that the custom for vendors is to issue alerts only when product fixes are in place.

Avien members argue that this is an outdated view because even limited information on email-borne worms would allow firms to carry out filtering operations, an approach applied with success by Avien members hours before updates to detect the Nimda worm were available. ®

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