Hardware & Infrastructure
03:52 PM

Symantec Protects Handhelds Against Viruses

The AntiVirus for Handhelds line has versions for businesses and consumers, and is designed to provide real-time and on-demand scanning for malicious code.

Symantec Corp. on Monday unveiled an anti-virus offering for Palm OS- and PocketPC-powered handhelds that provides both real-time and on-demand scanning against viruses, worms, and other malicious code.

The AntiVirus for Handhelds line comes in editions for both consumers and the enterprise, senior product manager Laura Garcia-Manrique said.

Handhelds, particularly those with wireless connectivity and especially those that are used to access business data, are an open invitation to attack, Garcia-Manrique said. Although there haven't been any malicious assaults on PocketPC devices--and thus far, relatively few aimed at Palm-based PDAs--it's only a matter of time before virus writers turn their attention to handhelds. "Virus writers are looking to make an impact," she said, "and there's a critical mass of handheld devices that don't have any anti-virus protection."

The trio of new anti-virus products--two for businesses and one specifically aimed at consumers--feature a micro anti-virus engine that's initially loaded onto a desktop PC, then installed to the handheld the first time it's synchronized with that computer.

Data within the handheld can be scanned on a user-set schedule for threats, scanned at any time, or the engine's auto-protect feature can be engaged for real-time protection. Additionally, media cards are scanned each time one is inserted into the handheld.

Virus definition file updates are delivered using the same mechanism--desktop to PDA at synchronization--or via Live Update Wireless. The latter, available only to Palm and PocketPC devices that are wireless-enabled, downloads anti-virus updates directly to the handheld, circumventing the desktop bottleneck. Users can decide when to download updates, avoiding times when the PDA is at a hotspot with high per-minute charges.

The enterprise editions of the product, known as Corporate Edition and Corporate Edition with Event and Configuration Manager, target companies that have deployed handhelds.

"PDAs, especially wireless PDAs, are increasingly a computing platform that has access back to enterprise data," Garcia-Manrique said. "They should be protected, just as any other point of entry into the network."

Corporate Edition features an interface on the PC desktop that resembles the Symantec AntiVirus Corporate Edition's look and feel, and integrates virus updates of the two products. The desktop version of AntiVirus then parses out the necessary files to the handheld at the next synchronization. Prices for Corporate Edition will depend on the number of licenses purchased, Garcia-Manrique said, but companies that buy 250 to 499 seats should see an average price of approximately $27 per user.

The more expensive Corporate Edition with Event and Configuration Manager--Symantec said it would be priced about 16% to 20% higher than Corporate Edition--adds centralized logging, alerting, and reporting through a management console on a desktop PC. IT administrators will be able to push configuration changes to all handhelds in the enterprise from the console to, for example, disable the user's ability to turn off real-time virus scanning.

The consumer version, Symantec AntiVirus for Handheld-Annual Service Edition, is priced at $39.95 for the first year and $19.95 annually after that. Unlike the enterprise editions, it doesn't integrate with the consumer version of Symantec's AntiVirus, so two separate downloads are necessary at the PC--one for the desktop edition of the software, another for the PDA.

The enterprise editions will be available at the end of August, while the consumer version of the handheld anti-virus solution will be sold starting in early September.

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