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New alliance aims to unite malware fight

The group, which is part of the IEEE and includes several security heavyweights, hopes that formalizing information sharing can help combat attacks.

A new alliance has been created to formalize information sharing on security protection and develop industry standards.

The Industry Connections Security Group (ICSG) is parked under the IEEE Standards Association and includes mostly security heavyweights and antivirus players. The founding members are AVG Technologies, McAfee, Microsoft, Sophos, Symantec, and Trend Micro.

Announcing the group in a blog post on Monday, Mark Harris, vice president of SophosLabs, said security researchers have had a tradition of sharing virus samples but that the sharing arrangements "are still based on individual relationships rather than formal agreements."

The formation of the group makes for a "more organized" security industry, he added, in the current landscape where attacks are increasingly structured and malware samples grow at "astonishing rates."

The ICSG currently has a malware working group, but intends to add other working groups over time.

According to a July 20 presentation document (PDF), the group aims to improve the efficiency of the collection and processing of the millions of malware file samples handled by security vendors each month by focusing on an XML-based metadata sharing standard. The standard is expected to undergo ratification by the end of this month.

Graham Titterington, principal analyst at Ovum, said the announcement of the group was both interesting and confusing. The rationale for the new alliance was the need for a more comprehensive approach to countering malware writers, he said, but the focus of the group appears to be limited.

The group addresses "all aspects of malware and its membership includes most of the main antimalware vendors--Kaspersky being the most notable absentee--and so the ICSG represents progress on countering the so-called 'blended threats,'" he told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail. "However, it does not seem to be taking the battle to the criminals or probing the criminals' business networks. The focus is on setting up the infrastructure and protocols to allow rapid information sharing on threats and making the day-to-day operation of the members more efficient.

Titterington added: "I would have expected a body affiliated with the IEEE to be putting more emphasis on the development of improved methods for disrupting criminal activity and on new ways of protecting users."

Vivian Yeo of ZDNet Asia reported from London.