As another computer virus struck thousands of e-mail users over the weekend and threatened many more Monday, a storage provider claims it has a way to block viruses such as this weekend's "Resume" virus and the "Love Bug" virus which took down the e-mail systems of thousands of businesses worldwide last month.
W. Quinn Associates, Inc., a Reston, Va.-based provider of Microsoft Windows NT/2000 storage capacity products, says its FileScreen 2000 software was able to block the "Love Bug" virus before any anti-virus software fixes were available. W. Quinn claims FileScreen 2000 is the first and only automated, real-time file blocking software to prevent executable virus files from propagating to company servers and causing serious damage.
Filescreen is most effective at preventing damage to files that reside on the file server, not on the desktop, however. Therefore, FileScreen 2000 would have only been able to protect document files hit by the "Resume" virus if they were saved on the server. It would not have been able to protect it at the desktop level.
"The argument that we make," says Steven Toole, marketing director at W. Quinn, "is that users tend to keep all their documents on the server because the server is backup and the desktop isn't. FileScreen will prevent that file from deleting any files on the NT server. The difference between being able to protect users from the "Love Bug" virus and the "Resume" virus, is that the "Love Bug" virus had an extension that the typical user would not be receiving," says Toole. "But, almost all users use files ending in "doc" which the "Resume" file had."
According to David Hill, research director for storage and storage management, for the Boston-based Aberdeen Group, Inc., FileScreen 2000 works by not allowing users to receive e-mail attachments that have an extension that may contain a virus (such as .vbs or .exe) while at the same time permitting attachments, such as .doc files, to be stored for use by an end user.
"Consequently, the "Love Bug" would not have gotten through this filtering process," said Hill. "The downside is that legitimate .vbs or .exe files would not be received by the end user. IS may feel that those type of files are not appropriate for end users in general. However, IS may grant exemptions to those individual who have a legitimate need."
W. Quinn's approach is not unique, however.
"Anyone can write a script preventing any e-mail with a .vbs attachment from making it off the server, however, I'm not sure if there are any other packaged apps designed for that," said Steve Duplessie, senior analyst, The Enterprise Storage Group in Milford, Mass. "Proactive products such as this are obviously better than those who only react once it's too late. FileScreen 2000 didn't let the virus get into some networks, eliminating a lot of headaches," said Duplessie.
"By the time the virus was identified, it had already propagated hundreds of thousands of systems worldwide, and its damage had already been done," said Najaf Husain, W. Quinn's president and chief technology officer. "Although virus scanners and online fixes should be a mandatory practice in any enterprise, this is still a reactive approach. Most of the damage caused by this virus occurred long before the virus companies posted their patches."
"Unless your company has software developers, you have no real reason to store Visual Basic script, so you could just bar that with our product," said Toole.
W. Quinn's FileScreen 2000 software product automatically prevents any file type such as ".vbs" (Visual Basic Script) files from being copied to Windows NT/2000 servers, crating a line of defense for servers from damage caused by viruses such as the "Love Bug" virus and last year's "Melissa" virus. FileScreen 2000 lets users configure the software to prohibit ".vbs" files, ".exe" (executable, or application) files, or any other file name extension from writing to the file servers before the virus is detected or identified. Although FileScreen 2000 will block the virus by its extension alone, users can also take extra steps by configuring FileScreen 2000 to block the file by its file names, "LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbs" and "WIN-BUGSFIX.exe."