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SecureWave revamps alternative to desktop AV

Gimme Sanctuary in that behaviour-blocking technology

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Intrusion prevention outfit SecureWave is challenging the place of traditional AV software on the desktop with a revamped version of its behaviour-blocking technology, due out next month.

Instead of applying the "black list" logic (if it is registered as bad, deny), that underpins signature-based AV products, SecureWave's Sanctuary product line will allow only known and allowed applications to run. This "white list" approach is far more effective in combating viruses and worms the traditional AV scanners, SecureWave argues.

Sanctuary Application Control and Device Control will allow administrators to create rules on the use of PCs controlling applications and I/O devices, respectively. Unlike SecureWave's previous SecureEXE and SecureNT software technology, Sanctuary also creates a means to allow designated users to run application and executable files they personally know and trust.

Bob Johnson, chief operating officer of SecureWave, said Sanctuary is an alternative to AV software on the desktop. However, he stressed that corporates would still need to have AV software at the gateway and separate firewall defences even after they deploy Sanctuary. "You need AV somewhere in your environment but not necessarily on the desktop," he said.

SecureWave is focused on desktop and server security, so users would need to look elsewhere for network-based intrusion prevention and firewall technology. Web-based email filtering services, which help minimise the bandwidth drain caused by viruses, also fit in with SecureWave's approach.

Time to change

It's becoming increasing evident that fast-spreading worm can bypass AV protection (false negatives), but the behaviour-blocking approach caries with it the possibility of false negatives - the Achilles' Heel of intrusion detection systems. Also, wouldn't adding new applications to a white list create an extra headache for sys admins?

That's not a problem in practice, according to SecureWave, which reports that users of its technology experience a decrease in help-desk inquiries.

SecureWave claims to have solved the management problem of applying white lists into businesses and its impressive roster of clients such as Barclays Bank, Norwich Union, The Metropolitan Police and NATO backs up its assertion that traditional AV vendors should watch their backs.

"We're offering zero day protection, stability and configuration control. Traditional AV vendors - who are attached to an outdated approach that has made them rich - can't match that," said Johnson.

At first, SecureWave will be marketing Sanctuary to corporates but it promises a consumer version of the product by the end of 2004. This marks it out from competitors in the emerging host-based intrusion prevention market such as Cisco who are only interested in the enterprise market. Cisco positions its technology as an extra layer of protection - rather than an alternative - to desktop AV packages. ®

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