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9/21/2005
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Verso Appliance Lets Enterprises Block Skype

NetSpective can also monitor and block a wide range of HTTP, chat, peer-to-peer, and streaming media protocols, Verso says.

BOSTON -- Verso Technologies announced an update to their NetSpective content filtering appliance that the company claims is the first in the market able to monitor and block the use of Skype on enterprise networks.

In addition to blocking Skype, NetSpective can be configured to monitor and block a wide range of HTTP, NNTP, FTP, Chat, peer-to-peer, and streaming media protocols.

John O’Reilly, Verso’s general manager for NetSpective, said that blocking Skype has been an enormous problem for companies. “Skype is a very aggressive application,” said O’Reilly, interviewed here at the VON Fall show. “It jumps around and tries different ports and different protocols and finds a way through your firewall.” NetSpective has solved this problem, he said, by allowing IT managers to monitor and report on Skype use within their networks and block such use based on a set of flexible time of day, user, and IP range rules.

Companies in a number of industries are required to maintain audit copies of all communications. Because Skype’s communications are encrypted, these conversations cannot be recorded and monitored. Other reasons for blocking Skype include concerns about the network impact and the use of company resources for personal business.

O’Reilly points out that the product doesn’t have to be used to block Skype. “A company that wanted to encourage the use of Skype could use NetSpective to monitor usage and make sure everyone was using Skype,” O’Reilly said. Nonetheless, the most likely early buyers of this technology are likely to be companies that need or want to block employees’ use.

NetSpective is delivered to customers as a hardware appliance installed on a corporate WAN. Pass-by filtering allows the product to analyze every packet, looking for a Skype “signature.” This traffic is then blocked, based on the rules that have been previously configured, while other packets are allowed to flow through to their destination. The appliance, scheduled to be available later this fall, will be priced starting at $4,600 for a device that supports up to 250 users.

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