Monday, September 21, 2009

Network Security Software

Sunbelt Software's VIPRE - Redefining security software

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes from

Sunbelt Software’s VIPRE - I’ve finally found an antivirus package that delivers the goods.

Over the years I’ve become truly disillusioned by security software. A good antivirus package used to be the first thing that I installed on a system after installing the OS, but now that’s become one of those tasks that I know I should do (not just to protect myself, and the network, but others that I communicate with) but that I put off until the last minute. Why? Because I know I’ll start hating the system shortly afterwards and resenting the security software for consuming so much of my precious system resources.
VIPRE setup and interface gallery

There have been times when seeing the performance hit that a system takes after installing a security package has actually made me put my head in my hands and wonder whether all these strides we have made in processor power and RAM capacities are all undone thanks to security firms unleashing their bloated wares upon us. I’m not going to name any names - I’m pretty sure that most of you will be able to rattle off a list of them without any prompting from me.

Time for a short story …

OK, story time. Last night my wife and I were at my mother-in-laws and the subject of her slow notebook came up. The notebook is question is an aging IBM ThinkPad R51e that runs Windows XP and which hasn’t really been all that fast from the start. It suffers from not enough RAM and too many drivers and specific apps (which are tricky to remove without losing features) kludging up the system. But what makes matters worse is that any security software that you install onto the system amplifies these problems greatly.

The antivirus package that was installed on the system was Kaspersky AntiVirus 2009 2008. I have a love/hate relationship with this product and use if mostly because it’s the best of a bad bunch (a statement that says a lot about the current line up of security software). We uninstalled this application and immediately there was a performance gain. I didn’t benchmark the system under controlled conditions but I’d say that boot times were cut by about 33% and loading times for applications by 25%. However, I knew that I couldn’t leave the system unprotected and that I’d have to install something in place of Kaspersky. Then I remembered that I’d received an email earlier in the week from Sunbelt Software informing me that the new VIPRE antivirus and antispyware app was out (an enterprise version has also been released). One of the features that the email bragged about what how this software wasn’t a resource hog.

I decided to pull up the website and take a look. The copy for VIPRE (which stands for “Virus Intrusion Protection Remediation Engine”) was full of performance-related claims:

  • “VIPRE Antivirus + Antispyware is high-performance security software that doesn’t slow down your PC like older, traditional antivirus products.”

  • “Tired of old antivirus software that makes your PC slow down to a crawl? Interrupting what you are doing with slow scan times, causing problems and nagging you? Time for a change to next-generation antivirus + antispyware that IS NOT a resource hog!”

  • “Does not slow down your PC”

Bold claims, but that said, almost all antivirus vendors nowadays makes similar claims.

OK, I clicked the download link and the 12.6MB packaged came down swiftly. I started the install process which seemed much like every other install process and the program installed without fuss. After a reboot the setup wizard picked up again and guided us through the initial setting up of the software. VIPRE downloaded the risk definitions and the program was ready to roll.

Then I noticed something. The system was just as responsive with VIPRE installed as without. Wow! I wasn’t expecting that. We rebooted the system just in case it wasn’t running, and then downloaded the EICAR test file to make sure that it was running and sure enough, it was, and it was having almost no effect on the performance of the system. To say I was impressed would be an understatement.

Back at the PC Doc HQ …

Today I’ve had a chance to take a closer look at VIPRE, and it has to be said that I like what I see.

  • First off, the performance claims do seem to be real. today I’ve uninstalled a number of different antivirus packages from a selection of systems and replaced them with VIPRE and on every system I’m seeing and feeling a performance boost. Not only is the real time monitoring far lighter and and less of a resource hog than any other antivirus package I’ve come across, the system scanner is also fast and light-weight (I’ve been typing this, taking screenshots and running a couple of virtual machines while VIPRE has been scanning my system). My testing backs up the claims made by Sunbelt Software and goes to prove the benefits of adopting a clean slate, building a product from the ground up approach.

  • VIPRE offers all-round protection - antivirus, antispyware, protection from email-borne threats, rootkit detections and other goodies such as a secure file eraser and history cleaner.

  • VIPRE is easy to use. In fact, the interface is a pleasure to use.

  • The product is honest and gives you clear feedback relating to what it finds on your system - no scan and scare tactics here.

  • Then there’s the aspect of fair pricing. A single license for VIPRE costs $29.95 and gives you a year’s worth of updates, while a 3-user annual subscription is $39.95, while for $49.95 you can protect all PCs in a single household with a single site license. That’s the fairest deal I’ve come across.
    “Typical ‘household’ licenses offered for security software products limit the number of PCs protected to anywhere from three to five per household,” said Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software. “With our unlimited home site license, customers pay one low annual subscription price for the product of their
    choice for all the PCs in their home. We don’t care if it’s five, ten, or 200 computers. One price covers all the computers located in that residence.”

Now I’ve rolled VIPRE onto a number of systems, I’ll let you know how things go in a follow-up post.

System Requirements

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher

  • At least an IBM Compatible 400MHZ computer with minimum 256MB RAM

  • At least 150MB of available free space on your hard drive

  • 2x CDROM

  • Internet access with at least 56Kbps connection

  • Supported Operating Systems:
    - Windows 2000 SP4 RollUp 1
    - Windows Server 2008
    - Windows XP SP1, SP2, SP3 (Home, Pro, Media Center, Tablet) 32 and 64-bit
    - Windows Vista+ (All flavors) 32 and 64-bit

  • Supported Email Applications: Outlook 2000+, Outlook Express 5.0+, Windows Mail on Vista, and SMTP and

  • POP3 (Thunderbird, IncrediMail, Eudora, etc.)

  • Installation of VIPRE is not supported on Windows 95, 98, or ME, Macintosh or Linux
A completely fully functioning trial version of Colasoft Capsa R2 is available.

Can peer-to-peer coexist with network security?

Network security experts have long cautioned about the risk posed by the use of peer-to-peer file sharing by individuals working in corporations, warning that the practice creates holes that let malware in and sensitive data out. Their message may be having an impact in the P2P development community.

A trade group representing peer-to-peer file sharing providers next week will publish a report that finds P2P software companies are modifying their programs in an effort to make it harder for users to inadvertently share sensitive information.

Elinor Mills(Cnet news editor) said:

For corporate IT administrators, that shift can't come soon enough. The problem was highlighted by the recent news that avionics blueprints of President Obama's helicopter had leaked through a peer-to-peer network used by a defense contractor to an IP (Internet Protocol) address in Iran.

This isn't the first time sensitive data has trickled out via popular file sharing networks. Last summer, personal information of some 1,000 former patients of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center was believed to have been leaked via a peer-to-peer network. Sensitive health care and financial data has also been found on file sharing networks, according to studies from Dartmouth College and P2P network monitoring service provider Tiversa, which also uncovered the leaked presidential helicopter data.

Peer-to-peer use at ABN Amro and Pfizer led to the exposure of personally identifiable information of more than 20,000 consumers in 2007. And then there was the symbolic slap in the face when politicians called P2P networks a potential "national security threat" at a congressional hearing that summer.

Minimizing the risk

IT administrators need to have a written policy that specifies whether or not employees are allowed to use file sharing. And they need to use perimeter security software, including firewall and intrusion detection, "to lock down the ports used by P2P or to look for specific P2P network traffic," said Tony Bradley, director of security at Evangelyze Communications, a unified communications software and service provider.

Corporations also might consider encrypting sensitive information and using data loss prevention tools to block data leakage, experts said. And if they want to see if any of their data has found its way onto a P2P network, they can hire Tiversa to probe Gnutella, eDonkey and FastTrack file-sharing networks.

Tiversa probes the networks, searching for specific terms and lets customers know when it finds any data out there specific to that firm and helps pinpoint the source of the leak and stop it.

After lawmakers accused them of being part of the problem nearly two years ago, P2P providers and their trade group--the Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA)--formed a working group to figure out ways to minimize the risk for P2P users and their networks. The DCIA prepared a report dated Thursday on the Inadvertent Sharing Protection Compliance that lists guidelines for better protecting P2P users and percentages of its members who are following them.

The latest version of popular file sharing software, released earlier this year, LimeWire 5, includes a number of the suggested changes and served as a "poster child for compliance," said Marty Lafferty, chief executive of the DCIA.

The report shows 100 percent compliance with the guideline that recommends that default settings prohibit the sharing of user-originated files, while 57 percent of the respondents said they were complying with the guideline to offer a simple way for the user to disable the file-sharing functionality.

Other guidelines, with compliance percentages ranging from 29 percent to 71 percent, included requiring users to select individual files within a folder to share rather than sharing the entire folder, requiring the user to take affirmative steps to share sensitive folders and preventing the sharing of a complete network or external drive or user-specific system folder, such as "Documents and Settings." Among the guidelines are requirements for warnings to the user when particular settings might jeopardize security.

we(Colasoft) are focus on providing all-in-one and easy-to-use software solutions for users to monitor network activities, analyze network performance, enhance network security, and troubleshoot network problems.

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