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Source: National Post

Posted on March 7, 2003

      Businesses are demanding better protection for their corporate computer networks, a demand that is about to transform the world of electronic security.

      Most products designed to provide computer security now address only one aspect of the problem, says Jim Hurley, an analyst with Boston-based market research organization Aberdeen Group. Firms that want to protect their corporate networks find it hard to do so as there are so many security offerings -- and they are not necessarily interlocking or compatible.

      There are more than 500 suppliers offering computer security products across more than 50 different computer security categories, Mr. Hurley says. It is no wonder corporations are demanding solutions they can understand, implement and manage in a sensible fashion.

      "It's a fragmented and complex world -- it's difficult for buyers to sort out what they really need," Mr. Hurley says. "The state of the market is chaos -- it is like the days of the automobile prior to the advent of inter-changeable parts. Security is composed of an awful lot of 'point' solutions [that only deal with one aspect]."

      Mr. Hurley says this has been true in the security world for the past 15 years, but it is about to change.

      One major impetus for this is the type of major security problem encountered recently by companies across North America and around the world. Well-reported computer security problems, such as the SQL Slammer worm this January, and the Nimda and Melissa viruses that have caused so many problems in recent years, have helped to make the threat real to corporations. And last month, hackers stole the numbers for more than five million credit cards. These attacks have caused delays in business transactions, loss of information and loss of confidence in the security of electronic communications.

      Businesses are starting to respond. There are signs that spending on information technology, which has been kept on a short leash for some time, is increasing. It appears some firms recognize they may have to spend money now to avoid spending a lot more later.

      If, for example, a company loses a day of productive time because employees are unable to access their electronic mail or computer network due to a security breach, the incident may cost the company more money than buying and implementing appropriate computer security solutions.

      Computer industry leaders are responding with an array of new computer security products. Microsoft has unveiled plans to release Windows Rights Management Services (RMS). It says this is a "new technology for Windows Server 2003 that will give organizations advanced ways to help secure sensitive internal business information." This includes financial reports and confidential planning documents.

      "Customers have told us they need better solutions to help safeguard their critical business information," says Mike Nash, corporate vice-president of the Security Business Unit at Microsoft. "What's really compelling about Rights Management technology is that it enables businesses to protect the information they most worry might leak -- either deliberately or inadvertently -- by putting persistent protections in the documents themselves."

      Bell Canada is also responding, coming out with a suite of advanced e-mail security and privacy services for Bell Business Internet High Speed and Dial-up customers.

      The new services -- which will start with service "bundles" that will sell for as little as $11.95 a month per e-mail user -- will include end-to-end e-mail encryption, secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption, secure Webmail logon and anti-virus features. Bell Canada says these services will allow companies to secure and protect the integrity and privacy of e- mail transmissions.

      "E-mail is the lifeblood for Canada's many Internet-enabled businesses," says Sanae Takahashi, vice-president, Business ISP, Bell Canada. "Bell is delivering simple solutions to effectively address the security and privacy concerns of Internet-enabled small enterprises looking to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of their vital business data."

      The need for these kinds of solutions was underscored by an announcement from anti-virus software expert Network Associates, which issued a "watch risk assessment" to "the recently discovered W32/LOVGATE@M, also known as Lovegate, a mailer worm that propagates via e-mail by copying itself over open network shares [computers that have shared network drives]."

      Network Associates says this worm was first discovered last month and has been found worldwide.

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