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Virus naming scheme gets mixed reception

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A group dedicated to curing virus-naming confusion enjoyed its official launch on Wednesday. The Common Malware Enumeration (CME) aims to mitigate confusion in responding to viral outbreaks by providing a common name for high profile threats that can then be used in vendor products or their websites.

Users have been asking for consistency in naming from vendors for years and CME (which has been in gestation for two years) can only hope to mitigate - rather than cure - this confusion. Identifiers will be in the format of CME-N, where N is a unique number for each high profile malware strain.

In the rush to write virus definition signatures - and monikers likely to capture public attention - anti-virus firms often come up with a variety of different names for the same piece of malware. CME won't end this practice but it will add an index so that end users can more easily correlate data on the same big-hitting worm or virus.

The CME initiative being sponsored by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and works along similar lines to the existing Common Vulnerability Enumeration scheme, which deals with security vulnerabilities as opposed to malware. Vendors are split over the benefits of CME.

David Perry, global director of education at Trend Micro, said the scheme might make things even more confusing. "Now every piece of malware will just have 18 names and a number," he said. Supporters of the scheme rejected this criticism. "Big-hitting viruses will be tied together with a common thread," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. Larry Bridwell, content security programs manager at ICSA Labs, said conceded that the scheme was modest in its proposals but argued it was still a step in the right direction.

Members of the CME Editorial Board are drawn from a raft of security vendors including Computer Associates, F-Secure, ICSA Labs, Kaspersky Lab, McAfee, MessageLabs, Microsoft, Norman, Sophos, Symantec, and Trend Micro. More info on the scheme can be found here. ®

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