Anti-virus players sink teeth into spam

Anti-virus software companies are fine-tuning their security offerings to supply organisations with tools or services to make...

Anti-virus software companies are fine-tuning their security offerings to supply organisations with tools or services to make e-mail gateway boundary protection more manageable in the fight against spam.

Trend Micro launched its Spam Prevention Service (SPS) this week. The product borrows technology from e-mail security provider Postini's heuristics rule engine to filter spam by different and configurable category types, said Jeanie Boots, global product manager for content technology and anti-spam at Trend Micro.

Symantec's enterprise anti-spam product is due out later this month, although no details were available.

Trend Micro officials will use its Active Update Server structure to let customers tweak SPS’ heuristic engine with the latest spam attack or patterns updates just as they would for downloading the most current virus signatures.  Eventually, value-added services including real-time spam monitoring, sophisticated quarantining, and policy management could be added as part of SPS’ software subscription service, Boots added.

Trend Micro’s SPS offering, which ships this week, supports Sun Solaris servers. The company will offer SPS for Microsoft Windows NT in May, followed by a Linux version by June.

Despite acquiring anti-spam maker Deersoft at the start of 2003, Network Associates may have the toughest road ahead to enable co-ordinated spam protection at the network gateway, server and desktop level.

It may be faced with extensive engineering to enable the desktop-oriented Deersoft SpamAssassin to be enterprise-ready and co-exist with McAfee and Network Associates technology, said Maurene Grey, research director at Gartner.

Grey said customers are flocking toward anti-spam products to re-acquire strong operational efficiency and implement a "security guard" to oversee spam protection, virus protection, and content filtering chores simultaneously – a trend that AV vendors have likewise targeted.

"The [market] consolidation is being carried out by the leading players in the space of e-mail boundary protection and that gets us to Trend Micro, Symantec, and NAI," said Grey. "They’re already well known and already have a stake. This provides [customers with] licenses bundling and benefits to the enterprise."

Gartner has forecast that by 2004, half of all e-mail will be spam-related.

Exacerbating the problem, competition for customers’ affections is fierce.  Organisations must decide if they want to entrust their spam protection to a services model offered by Postini and MessageLabs, a licensed software approach from suppliers such as honey pot-probe network based BrightMail as well as SurfControl, or a hardware "box" perspective from CipherTrust.

"Everybody is using a combination of different techniques. This is the added layer of complexity. It’s all got very confusing to the enterprise [customer] to figure out first what is the right partnering approach to ensure that two years from now when consolidation is over, we have a vendor that is still in business," Grey remarked.

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