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Security firms team for new product

Antivirus-technology companies Network Associates and Check Point Software release an automated Internet and desktop security package designed for small businesses.

Antivirus-technology companies Network Associates and Check Point Software co-released on Wednesday an automated Internet and desktop security package designed for small businesses.

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The system, which will be known as Secure-1 and sold as part of Network Associates' McAfee product line, combines one of Check Point's high-speed security appliances with McAfee's existing VirusScan ASaP virus protection service. The companies claim the package will help smaller companies streamline antivirus security systems by providing automated and managed Internet gateway and desktop protection.

The IT security vendors assert that small businesses' need for Internet security has never been greater, based on the rapid proliferation of viruses such as the Sasser worm, which started spreading Friday and has infected an estimated 500,000 to a million systems. In fact, Network Associates estimated that 80 percent of those infected by Sasser were home users and students, people whose computer defense systems tend to more closely resemble small companies' security safeguards, compared with those operated by midsize or large businesses.

The two companies said Secure-1 would help customers stay ahead of emerging threats by automatically updating users' firewalls and antivirus definitions without requiring any human intervention. Since smaller businesses tend to have fewer full-time information technology employees, the vendors believe the new tool set will allow users to focus more on their own operations and worry less about security.

The main focus of the offering is making sure desktop computers are current with any changes made to a customer's security software and settings. The product includes features that automatically update machines with the latest protective applications before they are allowed to go online.

Though businesses continue to step up their antivirus defenses, there appears to be no limit to the staggering number of corporate network intrusions and virus attacks that take place each year. And small businesses represent a growing opportunity for security vendors, as many are expected to spend significant chunk of their IT budgets on protective technologies each year.

A recent report published by Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research found that small and medium-size businesses will increase spending on information technology by 6.6 percent this year, a much higher increase than the 1.7 percent rise predicted for larger companies. Security ranked among the top three concerns for the companies surveyed, along with making investments in new hardware and data management tools.

Last week, Network Associates announced plans to officially change its name to McAfee, which has been the moniker of its most prominent product line and the name of a company it acquired in the late '90s. In addition, the vendor said it will sell its Sniffer line of manageability tools to Silver Lake Partners and Texas Pacific Group for $275 million in cash.