Microsoft sets roadmap for corporate malware software

Microsoft Thursday unveiled its first antivirus, antispyware software designed for corporate networks, which will go into beta by year-end and ship in 2006.

The product was introduced by CEO Steve Ballmer during a presentation in Munich, Germany. It is currently being called Microsoft Client Protection, but will be renamed before final release. Client Protection will protect desktops, laptops and basic Windows file servers from viruses, spyware and other malware, including rootkits. It will compete directly with similar security tools from the likes of Symantec and McAfee.

Client Protection is a combination of software Microsoft acquired from the purchase of anti-virus vendor GeCAD in June 2003 and from the purchase in December 2004 of Giant Company Software, which develops anti-spyware software.

"Over time, customers want fewer security products to manage so we are taking this approach of unified protection, something we will build on over time," says Paul Bryan, director of product management in Microsoft's enterprise access and security products division.

In terms of malware products, Microsoft now has Client Protection, the Antigen lineup of security products acquired from Sybari, an online service for small and midsized businesses called OneCare and the hosted service from its acquisition of Frontbridge in July.

Client Protection is made up of agents that run on each client and a centralized server management console. Microsoft has tied the software into Active Directory and it's Group Policy technology for centralized management of desktop configuration, which will allow administrators to set policies for use including how the interface looks to each user and how to handle malicious software.

Microsoft may possibly release Client Protection under its System Center brand name, which includes System Management Server (SMS) and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM). Client Protection includes reporting and alerting technology that is used in MOM and will integrate with SMS to distribute software and with the online service Microsoft Update, to deliver virus signatures, which will be produced by Microsoft.

"We are working through the final naming, but System Center is in consideration," says Bryan.

He also said that while Client Protection will cover basic file servers, Microsoft's Antigen product line would be used to protect advanced file servers, such as SharePoint Team Services, and include such features as content filtering. Microsoft also announced on Thursday plans to release Microsoft Antigen anti-virus and anti-spam security software for messaging and collaboration servers. First up is Microsoft Antigen for Exchange, which is slated to go into beta in the first half of 2006.

The current Antigen product line works with Exchange messaging server, as well as Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003, Windows SharePoint Services and Live Communications Server 2005.

Microsoft also will add at no-cost for current users its own virus scanning engine based on the GeCAD software to Antigen, which now uses scanning engines from CA, Norman Data Defense, Kaspersky Labs, Sophos and others.

Client Protection supports Windows XP SP2 and Windows 2000 SP4 on the client side. On the server side, it supports Windows 2003 SP1 and above and Windows 2000 SP4. Pricing has not been announced.

In addition to the product announcements, Microsoft also unveiled the SecureIT Alliance, a group of partners working together on security for the Microsoft platform. The partnerships are an extension of partnerships Microsoft has with the Virus Information Alliance and the Global Infrastructure Alliance for Internet Safety.

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