Network firewalls top wish list for security cops

On a side note, Microsoft OneCare beta became a OneScare experience

I made a mistake last weekend. Not your typical alcohol-induced mistake …. I downloaded a piece of software I shouldn’t have (more on that in a minute). You see, having just gotten back from RSA Conference 2006, I had anti-virus on the brain. And according to Forrester Research, the same goes for IT managers these days.

Forrester’s new report: “Fear Factor: Information Assets and Viruses and Worms Top IT Security Threat List," says that in addition to beefing up client security and watching data more closely as it flows though their network, companies plan to tighten up their perimeters this year, too.

Top tools in demand by IT security cops this year, according to Forrester, include network firewalls (55 percent), anti-spyware tools (53 percent), client anti-virus (53 percent), e-mail security gateway (49 percent), strong authentication systems (46 percent), personal firewall software (45 percent), and Tasers (just kidding -- still reading?). Forrester also found that companies want faster signature updates, and consider point products to be more effective on the desktop than suites, although potentially harder to manage.

Now, about my mistake: Microsoft is gearing up for its push into the enterprise and consumer desktop protection market, so I decided to try the Windows OneCare Live beta (ideas.live.com). After uninstalling my previous anti-virus software (Yahoo’s, by CA) I downloaded OneCare Live, followed the instructions, rebooted, and -- ta-da -- my machine froze for the next several hours on the “Windows is Starting Up” screen, even after several hard resets.

Mad at myself for having tried to fix something that wasn’t broken, I chose the nuclear option: calling the Microsoft product manager directly and using the InfoWorld name. I got a quick and apologetic response and within a couple hours my PC was booting again, sans the OneCare Live software. A follow-up e-mail told me I was in a “very small minority of people” out of the hundreds of thousands who’ve tried the beta. Probably the CA hadn’t completely uninstalled. Right …. Whatever.

What I learned is that the Web has changed my concept of “beta,” but not apparently Microsoft’s. Where I once thought of betas as potentially lethal, I now see them more as a feature preview, like Yahoo Maps or Google Earth -- might not be great but they won’t take out my machine. So the question for Microsoft is, Do you stick with the old “potentially lethal” concept, or raise the bar? I know software development is complicated, but there are a lot of good anti-virus choices out there, folks ….

Ports in a storm? Last week a brouhaha erupted over a Middle Eastern company buying a U.K. company that runs several large U.S. port terminals. While I don’t have a strong opinion on this, I find it interesting that no one’s ever worried much about foreign control of the other kind of ports -- the electronic ones. SAP, for example, provides the applications backbone for much of the U.S. military. I sat next to an Army colonel in full uniform last year at a Gartner conference and asked if that didn’t strike him as ironic. He shrugged, smiled, and said, “Hey, it’s a global economy.”

So here’s the scenario: Canada cuts off our BlackBerries, China cuts off our ThinkPads. Germany cuts off our ERP and CRM. It’ll never happen. And anyhow, we own the stuff, so we could just keep running it. Unless of course it’s the on-demand version.

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