Xtra service 'won't end all viruses'

A move by Xtra to perform antivirus scanning of all traffic through its email hosts doesn't mean end-users can forget about the problem, says Christchurch antivirus specialist Nick FitzGerald.

A move by Xtra to perform antivirus scanning of all traffic through its email hosts doesn’t mean end-users can forget about the problem, says Christchurch antivirus specialist Nick FitzGerald.

Xtra, the country’s largest ISP, will launch the free service this week. It is based on the same antivirus software, from US company Trend Micro, which rival Ihug uses for a paid-for scanning service.

Xtra spokesman Matt Bostwick says the scanning of all incoming and outgoing email on the ISP’s network — roughly 3.5 million messages a day — won’t cause any lag in message delivery times.

Trend Micro Australia and New Zealand head Chris Poulos (right) says the scan engine imposes “very little” network overhead, although “you need to throw iron at it” to ensure the process doesn’t become a bottleneck.

While the service should intercept any infected email attachment, FitzGerald says users should still install their own antivirus software because virus designers are moving beyond email as the transport medium.

“We’re seeing them using mass mechanisms like peer to peer [P2P] and instant messaging in increasing numbers.”

FitzGerald says users are more willing to download applications from P2P networks and these can also be infected if the host user doesn’t have “clean computing habits”.

Ihug’s Trend Micro-based service is sold under the i-Spy name, and starts at $2.50 a month.

Xtra general manager Rod Snodgrass says because of Xtra’s large user base, its service should have the effect of significantly limiting virus propagation across the whole of the New Zealand internet.

“Because of the large number of New Zealanders who use Xtra as their email provider, we are delivering antivirus protection on a scale never before seen in New Zealand or Australia,” says Snodgrass.

FitzGerald says server-based antivirus scanning should help stop the “epidemic” spread of viruses that cause so much havoc.

Poulos says the company has previously talked to Clear about providing it with the same solution, and he planned to revive the discussion during a meeting with TelstraClear last week.

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