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E-mail Viruses Targeted

April 24, 2001

New software capable of preventing computer viruses from spreading via e-mail has been developed by scientists at the U.K.'s Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA).

Launched on Tuesday at InfoSec 2001, an IT security forum in London, the application is called ::Mail. According to DERA – which has close links with the U.K. government – the software intercepts "outgoing e-mail messages from the user's computer terminal, requesting user confirmation prior to release". While the software does not stop the virus from infecting the recipient's machine when infected mail is opened, it does prevent the virus from spreading to other computers.

The software is to be made available in three versions, each with a different degree of protection. An off-the-shelf commercial version will be available in a few months, said a DERA spokesman. Costs have not been finalised, but DERA estimates that a licence for 1,000 users would cost about £5,000 (8,000 euros).

The most notorious viruses of recent months, "Anna Kournikova" and "I Love You", spread rapidly by automatically forwarding themselves to all the e-mail addresses in the recipient's address book. "I Love You" infected 5 million computers in just 36 hours and highlighted the vulnerability of e-mail systems.

Andrew Middleton, managing director of DERA's knowledge and information systems division, said: "Organisations adopting ::Mail's security functions will send a clear message to customers, partners, and suppliers that they are committed to preventing e-mail virus propagation via their computer network."

By Flore Brannon, Copyright © 2001 Standard Media International


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