Service Kills New E-Mail Viruses

MessageLabs' antivirus application keeps malicious code from sneaking onto networks

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

July 26, 2001

1 Min Read

More than a year ago, the ILOVEYOU virus struck Air Products and Chemicals Inc., an industrial gas and chemical manufacturer in Allentown, Pa. The E-mail-borne virus got through the company's antivirus security software and created a mess. "This was a sign of things to come, and we sought a better way to protect our E-mail system," says Jack Fekula, manager of systems integrity for Air Products.

At first, Fekula assigned several of his best security staffers full-time to downloading and installing antivirus upgrades throughout the company. But that didn't prevent new viruses from getting through. So Fekula turned to a British managed-services security provider specializing in E-mail security.

MessageLabs, founded last year, offers SkyScan, a secure delivery service that scans each E-mail with four antivirus tools, including scanners from F-Secure, McAfee, and Vfind. The fourth scanner, Skeptic, built by MessageLabs, is a heuristic and rules-based scanner that uses a knowledge base of virus tactics and pattern recognition to identify and kill new viruses. Most scanners can only stop previously identified viruses.

Air Products signed with MessageLabs on July 15, 2000, and Fekula says he hasn't seen a single piece of malicious code sneak onto his network since then. "This is one of those services where it clearly makes sense to outsource security," he says.

Heuristic antivirus applications have improved greatly in recent months, but they may not be able to detect a truly original virus, says Jan Sundgren, a security analyst with Giga Information Group. "I'm confident a virus writer could design a virus that heuristics would miss," he says.

MessageLabs began offering SkyScan in the United States last week; pricing starts at $2.50 per user, per month.

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