15 Jan, 2009

Symantec turns to virtualisation, cloud computing

The company demonstrated the technologies, along with another one designed to block malware from getting into corporate networks, to reporters and briefed them on its research and development strategy at an event it dubbed ‘Innovation Showcase’ in California on Wednesday. Virtualisation technology that essentially creates different machines on the same computer offers a good platform for securing PCs by providing different protected environments, said Joe Pasqua, vice president of research at Symantec Research Labs. Taking advantage of this trend, the company has developed ‘Virtualization-based endpoint security’, or Vibes, a technology that works with machines already running virtualisation hardware and software to isolate three different areas on a computer for doing activities that require different levels of security. The Vibes prototype protects web surfers from downloading malware and having sensitive data stolen, all behind the scenes. For instance, when a user wants to open or execute files downloaded from the internet, the system copies the file to a ‘Playground’ virtual machine and executes it there. Any viruses or other malware that might get downloaded stay within that one area and are unable to infect the rest of the computer, said Pasqua. When a user accesses a website using https, the protocol for encrypting sensitive data transactions, the Vibes system moves the operation to a Trusted Virtual Machine that provides a higher level of security. All other activities are carried out in a mode that offers the level of security offered by the antivirus and other security software installed on the computer. The isolating of the activities is all invisible to the end user. The Vibes technology is based on Linux/VMWare Workstation and is being developed by the Symantec Research Labs Core Research group. Pasqua said he could not speculate on when it might end up as a product. Symantec also showed off a service called GoEverywhere, an online workspace for accessing web applications from any internet-connected device. GoEverywhere, a project that will be in beta testing in a week or two, is designed as a subscription-based hosted service that offers a secure entry point with single sign on to any application on the web, said Don Kleinschnitz, vice president and general manager of GoEverywhere. “You are being untethered from your PC and your desktop,” said Art Tong, senior vice president of New Business Investments. “Independent of what device you are using and where you are using it, you can access your applications, your files and your data.” The service offers links to more than 100 popular web-based email applications and offers free web-based applications for instant messaging, word processing and spreadsheets. GoEverywhere works on any browser and is being developed for use on mobile devices. It does not yet allow users to save and edit files, just to view them, Kleinschnitz said. The service, developed in Symantec’s New Business Incubator, is targeted at consumers, as well as public kiosks and small businesses that want to save on IT and hardware costs, according to Tong. Symantec is not sure how GoEverywhere will be monetised, Ton said. It will be available for beta testing within the next few weeks. The third technology demonstrated at the event is called DeepClean. It features an Enterprise Perimeter Sensor appliance that monitors all the internet traffic entering a corporation. The system looks at the source of a file and if it comes from a trusted source it adds information about the file to a whitelist. The data is passed on to Symantec for building out the list of trusted whitelist sources it uses in other security products. Customers who choose to install the sensors and participate in a limited beta test will get reports on every file that comes into their network. The product will be available for general customer trials in early March, said Brian Witten, senior director of research. Symantec spends about 15 percent of its revenue on research and development, “in line with the rest of the industry”, said Mark Bregman, chief technology officer at the company. The security firm has set aside an unspecified amount of money to fund projects in its New Business Incubator program, which was launched a year ago, said Wong. Just like a traditional venture-capital firm, the aim is to create new businesses or projects that can become a substantial part of an existing business unit and start paying off in three to seven years, he said. Explaining why Symantec continues to invest heavily despite the recession, Bregman said that during economic downturns internet crime rises, creating opportunities for security companies. (credit: news.zdnet.co.uk)

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