InfoSec 2005

What does the security world have in store for us over the next twelve months? Gordon went on his travels again to find out.

Now technically speaking it may be a little derogatory to called ISS (Internet Security Systems) a little guy (why does no one have any hair in this photo?). It’s been around for 11 years and is a major player in the enterprise market, but on the consumer side it is simply not as well known as the two who like to use bright red or yellow on their product boxes.


That may be about to change, however, as I can see plenty more attention coming ISS’ way after taking a first hand look at its Virus Prevention System (VPS). For me, this was simply the best new technology on display at the show. The argument behind VPS is that all users are vulnerable to new viruses until their chosen company produces the necessary new signatures to fight against them. The response time at the moment tends to be between 12 and 30 hours, but when recent research shows a virus can spread across the world in 15 minutes many of us get caught out waiting.

VPS works to detect both spyware and unknown viruses without an update. It achieves this by using what it terms a “behavioural system” (essentially a profile builder) to recognise what applications a user works with on a day to day basis and what is newly installed on their machines. When new apps are detected VPS freezes them, runs a virtual version of the it in the background, works out if it the effects would be malicious or not and if so, alerts you and locks down the app.

Tom Smitt, ISS’ Senior Product Manager, described this as “Day Zero” protection and it is a term I think we’ll get to hear increasingly over the next 18 months. “”We’ve already got VPS so accurate that misreport levels are down to 0.001 per cent”,” he said. “”Users store more and more critical and sensitive data on their computers so, in our minds, leaving them vulnerable for even an hour while your antivirus software developer works on a new virus” (protection) ”signature is too long”.”

Personally speaking, the only downside to VPS (which Smitt said will be invisible to the user and require minimal system resources) is that it is being shipped out to enterprises first with end users unlikely to benefit before the end of the year. When I pressed Smitt and also Peter Stremus, ISS’ VP EMEA Marketing, if VPS could be licensed out to other developers like Symantec or McAfee they produced small smiles and said “”maybe…””


Progressing to authentication, I had an interesting chat with Souheil Badran, the incredibly personable VP of VeriSign EMEA. I got suckered into staying here a little too long by Souheil’s interesting anecdotes about Switzerland, a fascinating fellow from Bulgaria (hi Todor), an incredibly cute barmaid and a free bar (not necessarily in that order). There were also some announcements.

First, Badran explained that VeriSign is introducing three year SSL certificates with larger discounts available to companies or those of us who require multiple IDs. Secondly, and more newsworthy, is that VeriSign IDs now automatically enable 256bit SSL encryption on all compatible server and browser software (that includes FireFox).

Its Email Security Service (it’s a noun and requires caps!) is also now multilingual, but since I’m English and therefore struggle with foreign languages on a genetic level, I’ll be happy to stick with my mother tongue.

InfoSec 2005

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