MessageLabs Takes Malware Fight To The Clouds

MessageLabs today launched version 2.0 of its Web Security Services, an e-mail/instant messaging/Web browsing security system that lives in the cloud of the Internet rather than requiring a software installation on a user’s computer.

MessageLabs primarily serves businesses, leaving consumer antivirus and anti-spyware to market leaders, such as McAfee and Symantec. Its Skeptic technology catches viruses, Trojans, spam and phishing attacks that come in through e-mail, IM or Web browsing.

However, users don’t have to worry about keeping their definitions up to date, because the MessageLabs service is used as a proxy service on a user’s computer.

A business’s incoming and outgoing Web, IM and mail traffic goes through MessageLabs’ servers, which act as the first line of defense.

“Everything is done in the cloud, so we’re a completely managed service. There’s zero touch on the part of the end user and very limited touch on the part of the administrator,” said Brian Czarny, vice president of product management for MessageLabs.

MessageLabs’ service is built on its Skeptic technology, which comes with a new feature called Converged Threat Analysis.

This feature takes recent threat information reported or discovered from other protocols. For example, if a Web site with a Trojan is found, the IM, e-mail and Web filtering systems all recognize the threat.

Another new feature in Web Security Services is link following, which follows the links that come into a user’s e-mail to see what’s behind them before the user ever clicks on the link.

Czarny said virus writers have stopped sending attachments because users have gotten wise to attachments and instead are sending links for unwitting users to click.

The link-following technology checks the URL and if it finds a problem, that URL and the sender IP address are reported to the MessageLabs reputation system, which flags them for the future. So if it gets through in another way, users will be protected.

MessageLabs has also increased its global server availability for greater load balancing, so users will always get the closest and fastest server available, said Czarny.

Andrew Jaquith, program manager for Yankee Group’s Security Solutions & Services Decision Service, said MessageLabs has done quite well in the enterprise messaging market and that the company’s technique makes sense.

“There’s a lot of value in doing this in the cloud from a capital expense vs. an operating expense standpoint. If you can do [security] this way rather than investing in hardware and people to manage security, it will have its appeal,” he said.

MessageLabs Web Security Services version 2.0 will be sold as two services, Anti-Spyware/Anti-Virus and URL Filtering. The two services bundled together will be $5 per month per user, with volume discounts.

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