The arms race in the computer security market has intensified, with Fortinet unveiling its latest chip-based appliance used to protect enterprises against viruses and other network threats. Ken Xie, Fortinet founder and chief executive, said the company's new FortiGate 5000 Series box improved the response time for information technology administrators handling network security issues. 'The system sets a new high-water mark for security performance and reliability,' Mr Xie said. He claimed the performance advantage came from the company's use of application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) in its appliances, compared with software-based systems offered by other vendors. Possessing any advantage in the network security market would increase a vendor's chances of gaining greater market share in a fast-growing industry. Research firm The Radicati Group said the enterprise security market worldwide was worth about US$2.9 billion this year, and was expected to grow rapidly over the next four years to reach US$6.6 billion in 2008. Richard Hanke, Fortinet vice-president for global product management, said the firm's hardware-based approach to content protection made its products faster than any other system. 'We are four to six times the performance of other high-end security systems,' Mr Hanke said. Speed is an important feature in protecting networks from attack, but thoroughness is equally important. Mr Xie said Fortinet also used the WildList, which covers known viruses in the wild, published at www.wildlist.org . Still, Fortinet has its critics. Harry Cheung, managing director at anti-virus specialist Kaspersky Labs China, said: 'The WildList is excellent as far as it goes, but it may not be enough to protect your company.' Jim Morgan, director at Datalude (an information security specialist in Hong Kong), said he was satisfied with WildList but had some reservations about the speed of updates. 'The WildList per se looks OK,' he said. 'It does what it purports to do - catalogue the viruses that are in the wild at the moment, the ones you are most likely to be hit by. If you protect against this list, then your protection is likely so close to 100 per cent that it makes practically no difference. 'The issue is more likely how quickly the definitions get updated.' Michael Gazeley, managing director at Hong Kong-based security appliance supplier Network Box Corp, said the speed of updates was essential, but ASIC technology did not have that great an advantage. 'Modern CPU technology has progressed to the point where it just isn't necessary to have to choose between speed and quality,' he said. But information technology consulting firm Frost & Sullivan said the demand for increasing network speeds made the performance of products the key differentiator in the network security market. It also said the increase in content-based network attacks, combined with the cost and complexity of managing multiple security products, was driving high market adoption of integrated security systems that combined functions such as firewall, virtual private network, intrusion-detection, anti-virus and spam-filtering in one box. The network security market in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to be worth US$994 million in 2006, up from US$753.6 million this year, according to Frost & Sullivan.