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Startup Launches Free, Collaborative Antivirus Package

Immunet offers cloud-based solution that innoculates an entire community when one member is infected
Current methods for protecting individual PCs from viruses aren't working. So a startup today launched a new, cloud-based approach that is designed to protect whole groups of PCs and users at the same time.

The new, venture-backed company, Immunet, is offering a free application called Immunet Protect that can be downloaded and passed around to friends or business partners for free.

"The way we're fighting viruses today isn't working," says Oliver Friedrichs, a former Symantec executive who is now Immunet's founder and CEO. "Fewer than 50 percent of infections are detected and stopped by the AV products that are out there. That means when I go surfing on the Web, the chances are 50-50 at best that my AV software will prevent me from getting infected."

Playing on the popularity of Internet communities and social networks, Immunet leverages the computers of a user's friends, family and the broader Internet community to speed antivirus protection.

"Every time someone in this collective community encounters a threat, everyone else in the community gains protection from that same threat in real time," Immunet says. "You no longer have to rely on the isolated security of your current antivirus vendor. You will be able to protect your friends and family while being better protected yourself."

Immunet Protect uses a combination of cloud computing, collective intelligence, and user communities to make virus detection and protection more efficient, Friedrichs says. When the software detects a new threat, it triggers an immediate reaction from all of the other Immunet Protect packages in the community, blocking the threat regardless of which AV tool the participants are using. The data is then passed into the cloud, where it can be used by other communities.

"The more users that have it, the better the protection will be," Friedrichs says.

Friedrichs emphasized that Immunet Protect can run alongside current AV products. In fact, he says, it's designed to harness the data from security products that are already in place.

"Immunet Protect collects security judgments on what is, and what is not safe from its community," Immunet says. "These aggregated judgments are coalesced in the cloud, and, if they are sound, made available to the rest of the Immunet community immediately. "

Prevx applied the collaborative concept to the host intrusion prevention system years ago, but the technology did not revolutionize the market, notes Mike Rothman, principal analyst at Security Incite, a security consulting firm.

"Prevx took a similar approach in developing a community oriented network to define malware, but it didn't work very well," Rothman observes. "That could have been for a lot of reasons, and clearly the guys behind Immunet are smart, so maybe they can get this community approach to work."

Rothman also wondered about Immunet's business model, which so far doesn't have a paying product. Friedrichs says Immunet Protect will remain free, even well into the future, but that the company will add additional features or capabilities down the road that may cost extra. The company is targeting consumers first, and will move to the business market later, he says.

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