McAfee upgrades WebShield, changes virus alerts

McAfee Security, a division of Network Associates Inc., made a pair of announcements at the Networld+Interop conference in Las Vegas Monday detailing an upgrade to the software that powers the company's WebShield line of security appliances, as well as changes to the way the company describes virus threats.

First, the company announced the release of version 2.5 of the software that runs the McAfee WebShield line of appliances that offer users integrated antivirus and content scanning of Web, e-mail and FTP (File Transfer Protocol) traffic. The new version of the software makes it easier for customers to take full advantage of the product's features, said Zoë Lowther, product marketing manager for appliances at the Santa Clara, California-based McAfee.

The new version of the software gives customers the ability to use the devices in a "transparent in-line scanning" mode, she said. This mode will allow all traffic coming in and out of the network protected by the WebShield devices to be automatically scanned, whereas previous versions of the software had used the WebShield appliances as a proxy server, she said.

When running in the transparent in-line mode, the upgrade is also automatically configured to scan all Web, FTP and POP3 (Post Office Protocol) traffic, though e-mail servers using SMTP must still be manually configured to run through the devices, she said.

McAfee will begin shipping CDs containing the free upgraded software to customers within their license periods in the next few weeks, she said. Also WebShield devices have been shipping with the new software since May 2, she said.

Separately, the company also said it would make a pair of changes to the way it handles virus risk assessment.

Starting in mid-May, McAfee will be broadening the way it describes the risk viruses pose by offering a home user risk and a corporate user risk assessment for each virus discovered, said Vincent Gullotto, senior director for McAfee AVERT (Anti-Virus Emergency Response Team).

The change is needed because different viruses pose different risks to the two sets of users and giving each one their own rating will help both better address the issues, he said. Some viruses will be more likely to hit corporations than home users, and giving corporations information about that will help them make the proper decision about what kind of action to take, he said.

McAfee will also change the way it identifies low-risk viruses, changing their name to "low profile," he said. The name change is part of an ongoing effort within the company to reduce the level of hype surrounding less important viruses, he said.

This name change, however, is just the first step in a number of changes that McAfee will make over the rest of the year to further expand on the level of detail in its virus notices, Gullotto said. Virus alerts will be tagged with designations indicating whether a virus is a high risk or a high outbreak risk, he said. High risk viruses are those that could do large amounts of damage, whereas a high outbreak risk virus is one that has the potential for a wide distribution, he said.

The company is also considering prioritizing its virus definition updates, so as to ensure that users have protection against the most serious viruses, even if they don't update every time new definitions are released, he said.

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