MessageLabs, a British managed security service provider, will officially enter the U.S. market this week promising customers a full refund if any viruses get through its e-mail protection offering.
The service, called SkyScan, combines three commercial software packages, as well as MessageLabs proprietary antivirus technology, into one scanner to filter out viruses from a companys e-mail. Several experts estimate more than 85 percent of viruses that get onto corporate networks are distributed by e-mail.
"E-mail viruses continue to be a huge problem, resulting in thousands of dollars an hour of downtime for companies," said Bob Lonadier, director of security strategies of research firm Hurwitz Group. "The big issue here is practically every company has already invested in some antivirus technology, so youre selling to people that already have something in place."
The plus for a company like MessageLabs, which discovered the Love Bug virus, is the market is still wide open. Only a handful of service providers offer outsourced antivirus products, among them Brightmail, which provides Norton Anti-Virus as a service, and McAfee.com, which offers its VirusScan Online subscription service.
MessageLabs appears to be the first to offer multilayered antivirus technology, as its service includes scanners from McAfee.com and F-Secure, and CyberSofts VFind commercial antivirus software. E-mail that makes it through those products goes through MessageLabs own scanner before ever getting to the corporate network.
Jos White, marketing director of MessageLabs, says many viruses that MessageLabs has scanned have broken through one commercial package and then been blocked by another.
A virus has never gotten through the MessageLabs package, though, White said. "Its never happened so far, but we will refund the money if it does. Were sure it will happen someday, but so rarely that it wouldnt be a big deal to refund the money."
Air Products and Chemicals, a gas and chemical company in Allentown, Pa., is MessageLabs first U.S. customer. It has been using the service for more than a year.
Jack Fekula, manager of the Air Products Systems Integrity Team, says he already had antivirus software in place, but the need to constantly update it was taking up the time of his staff.
"The reality of finding talented IT people is difficult, and Im trying to get the technical people we do have the time to do more important things," Fekula said. "We dont outsource many things, but this one made a lot of sense."