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Government signs up MessageLabs for safe e-mail

The government is deploying a managed antivirus service for the Government Secure Intranet (GSI) after admitting in parliament...

The government is deploying a managed antivirus service for the Government Secure Intranet (GSI) after admitting in parliament that one in every 250 e-mails it receives contains a virus.

A £1m deal has been signed with UK-based e-mail security company, MessageLabs to protect government e-mail systems from mass mailing viruses.

The GSI provides the secure network infrastructure for all government departments.

MessageLabs will deliver its SkyScan AV managed antivirus service through its partner Cable and Wireless, which provides the GSI infrastructure.

SkyScan AV uses a patented artificial intelligence program to scan e-mail, without the need for signatures, before passing them on to the government network, MessageLabs said.

The program works by watching for similarities between messages, and blocking messages when it sees a large number that are the same.

"SkyScan AV uses predictive programming called heuristics, which looks for existing similarities, evidence of payloads and areas of known conflict, but it doesn't read for content," MessageLabs said.

The system also scans e-mail for pornographic images and "spam" and will not weed out electronic petitions and mass mailing of letters of protest, the company said.

In the first two months of this year the virus checking service on the GSI stopped more than 22,700 viruses.

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