While the Love-Letter bug caused critical damage to businesses worldwide, companies should not be concerned about viruses as such, but with implementing a foolproof antivirus system - one free of human tampering, a local security specialist said.
Addressing a recent Symantec e-Security conference, Kenny Liao, Trend Micro's manager for Australia and New Zealand, said IT executives should stop losing sleep over virus detection rates or software reliability. He claimed all major security vendors' products were certified to detect 100 per cent of both named and unnamed viruses, which he estimated sat at 30,000 today.
Moreover, Liao believed vendors had IT executives eating out of the antivirus industry's hand. In 1999, 90 per cent of large businesses worldwide invested in antivirus systems, translating to $US4 billion, according to Liao. "Don't let new marketing buzzwords bother you. All software does essentially the same job."
Antivirus policy enforcement, instead, was the most critical security issue facing the corporate sector today, he asserted.
In Liao's eyes, large organisations generally did a poor job of educating personnel on antivirus system management. Contrary to popular perception, he said companies didn't need to "work smarter" by training end users on virus detection, but needed to stop staff from interfering with virus management. "Any security solution that relies upon end users is doomed to fail," he warned. "[For instance], you might be asking your employees to delete certain e-mails which raises the risk of viruses spreading. The desktop should be the last line of defence, not the first and only.
"Control, monitoring and policy enforcement; if you have proper protection at the gateway and at the e-mail layer, then you're 80 per cent assured your antivirus system is successful," Liao claimed.
George Davidson, MBF's systems integration manager, echoed Liao's sentiments. "To go to the trouble of installing and distributing an antivirus tool, which then relies on the discretion of individual employees, is a waste of resources," he said.
"You may want to have a 'last line of defence' on the desktop, but your primary weapons should be trained at stopping the viruses from entering the organisation in the first place."
Liao recommended companies could tackle the universal problem of security cost-justification by losing the traditional 'per workstation' approach for centrally-managed mass upgrading. This would not only drive down cost, he said, but encourage more effective virus management through professional services outfits like ISPs and ASPs, groups which he termed "virus doctors".