Virus Protection For Windows Handhelds

McAfee VirusScan PDA Enterprise protects handhelds and can be integrated with a company's other anti-virus technology and policies.
Network Associates Inc. on Tuesday added a new anti-virus defense product to its security portfolio--one that targets companies with employees who carry Microsoft Pocket PC and Windows Mobile devices.

McAfee VirusScan PDA Enterprise installs a small anti-virus client on the mobile gear, but can be managed by the IT staff using Network Associates' McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator, an overseer's tool that sets and enforces security policies.

The idea, said Sal Viveros, wireless security marketing manager for Network Associates, is not only to protect wireless-enabled handhelds from malicious code, but also to integrate their security with a company's anti-virus policies already in place for its servers, desktops, and notebooks.

"Enterprises told us they simply had to have manageability," he said, both because many of their current wireless devices were purchased without the permission of the IT department and because in some specific vertical-market scenarios, organizations are considering widespread rollouts of handhelds. "They want manageability so they can set security policies and control those policies," Viveros said.

McAfee VirusScan PDA Enterprise installs to the wireless device during a synchronization session with its host PC--the size of the software client is small to conserve both memory and power, two limiting factors in handhelds, Viveros said. But once that's done, updates to the virus definition files are done automatically in the background when the device connects to the Internet.

VirusScan sniffs out malicious code that tries to infect the handheld via E-mail messages or file attachments. Like similar software for desktops and laptops, it deletes viruses or quarantines them so they can't do damage or re-infect other systems on the wireless or wired network.

Policies for the protected handhelds--when updates occur, for example, and who can make changes to a device's anti-virus defenses-- are handled through ePolicy Orchestrator, console-based software that Network Associates sells to enterprises for managing other hardware platforms. Using ePolicy Orchestrator, IT staff can monitor the status of anti-virus protection and generate reports on handheld users and device security settings, just as they can for the organization's servers, desktops, and notebooks.

While PDAs aren't currently a focus of virus writers--there have been only 35 to 40 released into the wild, admitted Viveros--he says the threat is there. "With the increased connectivity of wireless handhelds, and the explosion of access points at places like Starbucks and airports, it's all too easy for someone to access the Internet at a hot spot, get infected, walk right through the enterprise perimeter, and infect the entire network," said Viveros.

Most security analysts have pegged wireless gear as a tempting future target for virus writers, and Network Associates agrees. "We really expect threats against wireless devices--smart phones as well as PDAs--to grow this year, and next," said Viveros.

Network Associates isn't the only top-tier security vendor that has targeted enterprise PDAs as a new market for anti-virus wares. Last August, Symantec Corp. unveiled its AntiVirus for Handheld line, which supports not only Pocket PC devices, but also those running the Palm OS. Like VirusScan PDA Enterprise, Symantec's anti-virus software installs via synchronization with a PC and updates automatically when the wireless device connects to the Internet.

VirusScan PDA Enterprise is available now, priced at $11.32 per user when 51 to 100 licenses are purchased. An ePolicy Orchestrator license is included.

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