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Anti-virus intrusion prevention

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Network Associates yesterday announced plans to offer intrusion prevention alongside conventional anti-virus software.

The move is something of a watershed for the AV industry with a top-tier vendor acknowledging that conventional AV scanning software alone fails to defend against fast-spreading Internet worms like Sasser and Blaster. Conventional AV technology is inherently reactive and leaves a 'Window of vulnerability' where firms can get hit even if they have the latest AV signature updates, Metwork Associates acknowledges.

Rather than looking for known malware - the approach taken with conventional AV scanners - host-based intrusion prevention firms argue that malicious code is more effectively thwarted at the desktop using various types of behaviour-blocking technologies. Network Associates technology uses a combination of behavioural rules and signatures to prevent "both known and unknown attacks against servers, databases and applications". NAI got its hands on the technolgy with the acquisition of start-up Entercept in April 2003.

In the wake of the damage caused by Sasser, influential analyst Gartner advised Windows shops to invest both in means to patch faster and in host-based intrusion prevention software for all Windows PCs and server. The advice has spurred increased interest in the nascent market, which helps explain the timing of Network Associates' announcement.

McAfee VirusScan Enterprise 8.0i will combine anti-virus, desktop firewall and host intrusion prevention features within a single security agent. Currently available in beta, VirusScan Enterprise 8.0i is slated for general availability in Q3 2004.

Nick Ray, chief executive of rival host-based intrusion prevention firm PrevX, welcomed Network Associates move into the market but argued it was simpler to introduce intrusion prevention as a separate function than as part of a security suite. ®

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