Vendors Prepare For The March of RSA

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Last year, the computing world reached a flashpoint. A prevalence of data breaches, lost and stolen laptops and zero-day attacks ushered in new and ominous threats to Web users' personal information.

What's a security vendor to do? Take advantage of this free publicity wave and ride it, which is what the vendors will aim to do at the RSA Conference 2007 in San Francisco next week.

Microsoft kicks off the keynotes

Who better to kick off the conference's keynote sessions but Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates? In 2006, Microsoft (Quote) doubled down on security software, and Gates and other company officials are expected to discuss how those efforts have paid off.

Expect to hear Gates boast about the heightened security in Windows Vista, which includes BitLocker Drive Protection, CardSpaces and other technologies for shoring up data.

"It will be interesting to see how quickly Vista is adopted and how staunchly it stands up to any cracking attempts that will inevitably be made against it," said Burton Group analyst Dan Blum.

Oh and you might hear a thing or two about ForeFront, the company's security software portfolio aimed at breaking into a market for anti-malware protection dominated by Symantec (Quote), EMC's (Quote) RSA, McAfee (Quote) and others.

ISA Server and the Intelligent Application Gateway Microsoft acquired with Whale Communications last year will be among the talking points.

Blum said ForeFront has helped Microsoft broaden its onslaught into the IT security market, so much so that Symantec and the other security software makers have had to shy away from the point product approach and deliver more unified client protection.

"It will be interesting to see how the security market reacts to Microsoft becoming a major player here," Blum said. "The days are numbered when [incumbent security vendors] can just make a living entirely by filling the deficiencies of Windows, as those deficiencies grow less and Microsoft gets more proactive about shipping products to remediate them."

ForeFront, Blum said, basically ensures that customers don't have to wait five years for a new release because Microsoft can improve it every year.

That's a lot of licensing revenue that Symantec, McAfee and the other antivirus guys could normally book. Look for Symantec to go toe-to-toe with Microsoft and announce products that will shore up defenses of Windows Vista.

"What we offer is to encrypt that credit card number after it gets to that database or when it's captured in the application."

Ingrian plans to expand its coverage, encrypting unstructured information in file and e-mail systems with File System Connector. The Ingrian File System tool will run on the company's DataSecure Platform appliance.

Zero day doesn't have to mean zero chance

Last year also saw the rise of the so-called zero-day attack, which is the name given to any attack for which there is no patch available or deployed.

To counter this, CA next week plans to unveil CA Host-Based Intrusion Prevention System (CA HIPS), a piece of software cobbled from the assets of Tiny Software, which CA bought two years ago, and home cooking in CA's software engineering group.

CA HIPS monitors incoming and outgoing traffic and determines who can access what on a Windows-based computer network, said Sam Curry, vice president of security management at CA (Quote).

CA HIPS aims to check zero-day attacks at the network door by detecting anomalies in system behavior. IT administrators can define rules for responding to these anomalies, such as blocking suspicious application activity with the rest of the network until a threat can be tested. Threat events are then logged to support compliance and reporting requirements.

"The bad guys have gone from hacking for notoriety to hacking for profits, and there's a lot of crimeware, so the rate of mutation for threats out there is very, very high," Curry said, explaining the impetus for HIPS.

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