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RealTime IT News

IBM, HP Tackle Virus Protection

Fed up with relying solely on a software solution to curb the virus crisis, two of the top computer makers are taking matters into their own hands.

IBM and HP each have new programs to help prevent common viruses from wreaking havoc on a network. Both companies stressed the importance of antivirus software, firewalls and installing patches on a timely basis. But Big Blue and the printer maker are using some of their own technology to tap into that extra layer of security that enterprises in all sectors seem to be crying out for: peace of mind.

"After a year like 2004, many IT departments feel beaten down from combating viruses like Mydoom and Netsky," Stuart McIrvine, director of IBM's security strategy, said in a statement.

Based on early indicators, IBM's Global Security Intelligence Services team said a new and troubling trend for 2005 may be the aggressive spread of viruses and worms to handheld devices, cell phones, wireless networks and embedded computers, which include car and satellite communication systems.

One problem that both companies have identified is that some applications have the same automatic access and privileges to other applications and parts of the computer system as does the user. This means that any one application that becomes infected can spread a virus throughout a system and damage unrelated programs and information. Even commonly used programs such as Solitaire could infect a computer system.

McIrvine said IBM is rolling out new sophisticated intelligence-gathering and analysis tools as part of its security services group that could help customers monitor and prepare themselves to avoid a new breed of attacks.

IBM also will embed new security protections in its products. The company's upcoming ThinkPad T43 computers will support a new technology called "Antidote." The software lets an administrator set security policies throughout the network including a feature that cleans out all the connected systems and then blocks them from re-infection.

Researchers at HP Labs released a new software protection today they call "Virus Throttle." The damage-containment security software detects abnormal, virus-like behavior and slows down the number of different connections an infected machine can make. In that way, an administrator has the time to check the problem and take further action if necessary.

HP said it has begun collaborating with two prominent partners to test the new security software. Already, the company has installed it as a special pack for its HP ProLiant servers and for ProCurve Networking by HP 5300 switches.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm also released new HP Security Containment technology for its HP-UX 11i v2 operating system. The add-on application separates compromised software and restricts access to other applications or files on a system.

Separately, HP said it has new experimental software now in development that can tackle access and privileges problem for Windows XP users. HP scientists are working to configure applications so they automatically launch in a restricted environment.

"If IT systems were 'intelligent' enough to automatically detect and shut down attacks before they spread, administrators would spend less time and money trying to catch up," said Tony Redmond, vice president and chief technology officer at HP's Security Office and Services division.