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Sybase adds antivirus and firewall to mobile management suite

Sybase iAnywhere is expanding its mobile security capabilities. With the rise of mobile malware, a smartphone doesn't have to be stolen or lost to be vulnerable to attack. With new antivirus and firewall features, the company is taking its Afaria mobile management and security suite beyond the lockdown and encryption features that have traditionally focused on securing lost or stolen devices.

Sybase iAnywhere is adding antivirus and firewall protection to its Afaria mobile management and security suite.

"Afaria has very much been a device management suite, not just security but asset management that allows enterprises to manage mobile devices [as] they would manage PCs," said Sean Ryan, mobile enterprise research analyst for IDC. "This announcement of a firewall and antivirus – what they're trying to do is give enterprises the option to take a preemptive strike toward any malicious attacks and viruses that might start being targeted [at] mobile devices."

Afaria's security management capabilities in the past have included device encryption, power-on password, and remote device wipe. These technologies have helped to secure devices in the event that they are lost or stolen.

Mark Jordan, senior product manager for Sybase iAnywhere, said mobile devices are becoming more vulnerable to attacks that have traditionally struck the desktop, such as viruses, Trojans and spam. He said one example is a dialer Trojan that takes over a mobile phone and dials a premium number with a 900 area code, running up huge bills that feed money into the pockets of the owner of that premium phone number.

Afaria Antivirus Manager will feature automatic signature file updates and real-time virus detection. The technology will also use heuristic behavior-based analysis that can detect software that acts like malware.

"With over 500 documented viruses [targeting mobile devices] in the wild today, there is a growing area of concern over malware, viruses, hacker attacks [and] spam being targeted at mobile devices," Jordan said.

Afaria Firewall Manager is an IP packet filtering firewall that uses black-list and white-list methodology to filter inbound and outbound information. In addition, its SMS and call filtering capabilities will allow administrators to block mobile spam.

Jordan said the white-listing capability will allow for a high level of security in which devices are locked down, able to access only those IP addresses that are safe and essential to productivity.

"Let's say a field service company has a line-of-business application deployed on mobile devices, and they don't want their users to access the Internet -- for productivity reasons and also because it opens up the device to attack by surfing the Net," Jordan said. "But they do need them to be able to connect to a corporate website, or they need that line-of-business application to connect to the corporate network. By locking down that device and white-listing only specific IP addresses, they're able to protect that device as well as allow the IP traffic their workers need to be productive."

Protection from malware, spam and other attacks is becoming a top concern for corporate mobile managers, according to Jack Gold, president and founder of consultancy J. Gold Associates.

"I think that antivirus and firewalling for mobile devices is important, particularly as you move to really smart devices," Gold said. "If you think about the fact that most smartphones you look at today have the power and capabilities of PCs from three or four years ago, there are a lot of companies that are at risk."

Companies are taking a risk-reward approach to antivirus and firewall protection on mobile devices, Gold said.

"There haven't been a whole lot of infections that we know about, although the number is growing," he said. "The question becomes: What is it I'm trying to protect against?"

Ryan said Sybase isn't the first vendor to offer these technologies. Top information security vendors have been venturing into the mobile market in recent years, he said. There are also some pure-play mobile security vendors on the market.

Sybase's integration of firewall and antivirus into its other mobile management and security capabilities makes for a compelling value proposition, Gold said.

"I don't know that if I were an independent company that I'd just go out and pick Sybase for firewall and antivirus over McAfee or Symantec," he said. "But it's coupled with [Sybase's] various suites, so if I'm already trying to manage devices, then this allows me to do that too. If they were going to compete head-on in the antivirus space, it's not a good market for them. But as an extension to their platform, it makes a lot of sense."

Still, the market for mobile antivirus and firewall technology has yet to take off, Gold said. The industry has not yet seen a major exploit for smartphones, in contrast to the PC market, where a newspaper headline about a new virus creates a surge in business for companies like Symantec and McAfee.

"If you're a company, do you want to be reactive or proactive?" Gold said. "Do you want to get ahead of the curve and protect yourself before something happens, or do you want to wait? I think that any company that is smart should buy an insurance policy."

The new Afaria products will be available at the end of June. Sybase is offering the two products together in a combined single user license for $29 or in separate licenses for $19 each.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor

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