Wireless trend prompts safeguard expansion

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 December, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 December, 2001, 12:00am

Backed by the world's largest anti-virus research team, Trend Micro is taking its multi-layered virus protection strategy full-steam into the new year against emerging security threats to next-generation wireless communications systems.

Leading this initiative is TrendLabs, the company's Philippine-based anti-virus research and support organisation.

TrendLabs officials said Trend Micro was expanding the scope of its enterprise security products beyond traditional anti-virus scanning to address a broader range of content security threats.

That has entailed the development of new approaches and technologies, such as rule-based and behaviour-based virus detection, content filtering and real-time behaviour analysis of mobile applications received through the Web, including Java applets and ActiveX controls.

'To protect our customers, we need to keep developing innovative, proactive security solutions,' said Ieta Chi, manager of Trend Micro's global anti-virus group. 'With the nature of viruses and other security threats constantly evolving, we can't afford to stand still.'

He said TrendLabs' sharpened focus on wireless malicious code built on the company's recent development of technology to manage such security risks.

That technology was awarded patent No 6,272,641 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office this September.

Trend Micro advocates a multi-tiered anti-virus protection process involving server-based scanning and malicious code filtering at the Internet gateway, followed when necessary by real-time behaviour analysis at the client browser.

A suspect application is wrapped in security monitoring code, which causes it to terminate immediately.

'Ensuring the safety of Java applets, Microsoft's ActiveX controls and other mobile code is an important part of Internet security,' Trend Micro chief technology officer Eva Chiang said.

Digital communications research firm Cahners In-Stat Group has forecast shipments of Java-enabled mobile units to rise rapidly next year. Jorma Ollila, chairman and chief executive of Finnish communications giant Nokia, has predicted his company will sell 100 million Java-enabled cell phones by 2003.

'While it may be too early to predict the impact of Java on wireless Internet security, it is clear that new initiatives in this area will be required,' Ms Chiang said.

New security threats from Internet-enabled wireless communications systems have recently emerged in Japan, where NTT DoCoMo had to deal with software bugs found on certain Java-enabled phone models used on its i-mode service.

Internet-enabled mobile communications devices are possibly susceptible to security threats whenever users receive e-mail, browse the Web or receive information via beaming and synching.

TrendLabs started testing various types of wireless communications systems, including personal digital assistants (PDAs), last year, when several so-called 'proof of concept' virus attacks on these devices emerged.

Those incidents included such viruses as Phage, 911, Vapor and Palm.Liberty.A, the first known Trojan horse designed to erase the memory of Palm operating system-based PDAs.

In February this year, Tokyo-based Trend Micro started providing free anti-virus software, based on its PC-cillin desktop software, for the most popular hand-held mobile and wireless device platforms.

That release followed Trend Micro's move last year to update its entire line of network and consumer virus-protection products to include detection for all known wireless malicious code.

TrendLabs service centres in Manila, Munich, Paris, Tokyo, Taipei and California comprise an integrated virtual network with direct channels to Trend Micro business units, partners and customers worldwide.

'The anti-virus market is not just about selling software products anymore - it's a service industry, too,' Mr Chi said.