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McAfee Launches SecurityCenter

McAfee.com is getting a leg up on its competition, announcing Tuesday its strategy to bring security to distributed computing and Web services networks.

In what is becoming an industry standard, McAfee.com is launching a free download to introduce new users to the new strategy before charging for the service: SecurityCenter, a Web-based application that scans and rates a PCs security (on a scale of 1 to 10).

Part of McAfee.com's grid security services initiative, the application also gives user's access to it's virus definition library, with the hope the service will be enough to convince users to pay for down the road.

Srivats Sampath, McAfee.com president and chief executive officer, said his company's approach to security services (via the Web), is one that makes SecurityCenter unique.

"The massively distributed architecture of the Internet, interconnected through open standards, provides a platform to utilize the power of grid-based computing towards solving a very real problem -- the problem of constantly securing the global Internet in real time as threats arise," he said. "Grid Security Services are a response to the rapidly evolving need to continuously protect users on the Internet by leveraging the massively distributed capability afforded by it."

How the company's grid services work is this: a grid nucleus manages all the information gathered by its nodes (or SecurityCenter users). When a node finds a new security threat, all the nodes are informed of the threat using an extensible markup language (XML)-based schema and security patches made available for download.

The grid nucleus is a group of secure McAfee.com servers that officials expect to enhance with Web services security standards in the future, improving on hyper text transfer protocol (HTTP) and simple object access protocol (SOAP). Grid alerts are configurable and can be used with other programs like Microsoft's .Net alerts.

But first, the company needs to get users hooked on SecurityCenter, which comes with a number of nifty applications for end users:

  • Security index rating a user's PC from one to 10, displaying security based on anti-virus, anti-hacker and anti-abuse criteria.
  • Security Alert, a real-time notification program that sends alerts to its users with links to security patches and an explanation of the vulnerability.
  • Hacker vulnerability scanner that scans the user's Internet ports to determine whether they are susceptible to break-in.
  • World virus map that shows in real-time the extent of a virus, down to city level.
  • Virus information library, an online reference manual of known viruses, worms and hoaxes and fixes.

Harry Fenik, president and chief executive officer analysis firm The Sageza Group, said real-time dissemination of security threats is important in today's Internet envronment.

"There are several steps in the process of protecting people from the negative aspects associated with the Internet," he said. "Companies should strive to educate, to make general information available, to help users to ascertain their individual state of security and to help people protect themselves."

Hoping to snare users to its other programs, McAfee.com also bundles its SecurityCenter with 30-day trial versions of its personal firewall and privacy programs.

Officials would not say when they would start charging for SecurityCenter, though the program will likely be a monthly service charge.