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Trend Micro beefs up antivirus strategy

The security software company's new services approach adds better central management of antivirus software and a guarantee that it can provide a virus signature in two hours.

Security company Trend Micro announced on Tuesday an expanded antivirus strategy that it hopes will help customers manage their cyberdefenses better and respond more quickly to virus outbreaks.

While antivirus providers have done well at creating signatures for known viruses during the initial phases of an attack, businesses are unlikely to prepare for such attacks and few analyze the incidents afterward, said Steve Quane, director of enterprise marketing at Trend Micro.

"We are addressing the two-thirds of the problems that no one is addressing today: policy and the postattack cleanup," he said. The broadened strategy helps customers deal with both issues, he said.

The new components of Trend Micro's Enterprise Protection Strategy, which was originally announced in May, include expanding the company's outbreak-limitation service to add support for Solaris and Linux systems as well as for firewalls from NetScreen Technologies. The service communicates with Trend Micro's scanning programs and allows central management of programs that run on Solaris and Linux servers and devices as well as on Web and e-mail servers.

Other companies are moving in the same direction. Last fall, computer security firm Symantec, Trend Micro's rival in the antivirus software market, announced a renewed focus on making networks and their defenses easier to manage. In addition, security software maker Network Associates announced in October that the company would be offering its clients help in the form of consulting services.

Still, Trend Micro's expanded service had put that company out ahead, said Peter Firstbrook, senior research analyst with the Meta Group.

"Existing antivirus solutions are mostly centered around the distribution of virus signature updates," Firstbrook said in a statement released by Trend Micro. "However, companies also need more information and policy controls to protect businesses against virus threats in the initial stage of an outbreak, to contain the damage."

Trend Micro also plans to disseminate advice to its clients early in a virus incident to help them avoid being infected. Clients will receive early information on how to block attachments and network data that may contain hostile programs.

"In many cases, we have a lot of information about an attack, but the customer doesn't necessarily have all the information," said Trend Micro's Quane.

In addition, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company will guarantee that it will provide clients with a pattern definition for a virus within two hours of receiving a sample.

By rounding out the Enterprise Protection Strategy, Trend Micro hopes to become more of a service provider than a product company.

"The antivirus world today is churning--everyone is stealing each other's customers," said John Pescatore, research director of Internet security for market researcher Gartner. Helping customers deal with outbreaks could help businesses--especially small and medium-sized companies--deal with the threats, he added. In addition, the services could be easily sold through alternative channels, such as consultants and system integrators.

While Pescatore said the two-hour guarantee is a marketing gimmick that has little risk of backfiring on Trend Micro, he said the outbreak-prevention service is the opposite: hard to make work, but likely to be valuable.

"The policy part is not going to be as easy to implement as they say, but it does close some holes around the enterprise," he said.