Eva Chen: Created first Web-based central antivirus management console

A former sportswriter, Chen conceived that antivirus scanners should migrate to the Internet gateway, where they could catch more viruses and worms.

Eva Chen -- Co-founder and CTO, Trend Micro

Jenny Chang could arguably occupy this spot as part of the trio that created Tokyo-based Trend Micro, a network and content security company with 25 worldwide business units and more than 1,800 employees. While Chang, senior VP of marketing, helped her husband Steve build Trend Micro into a global antivirus company, it's cofounder, CTO and younger sister Eva Chen who gets the nod for product development.

Eva Chen
Eva Chen

Almost 10 years ago, the former sportswriter suggested that antivirus scanners should migrate from desktops to the Internet gateway, where they could catch more viruses and worms--an idea initially met with skepticism.

"Some in the press told me, 'Hey, it's impossible. Information flows too fast on the gateway to scan it properly.' Analysts said there's a privacy problem--you can't scan everyone's e-mail," she recalls. "Now, of course, people beg us to scan their e-mail."

Chen quietly persisted with her plan and, in 1995, created the first commercial gateway AV scanner. It quickly gained market share and remains Trend's biggest claim to fame.

Next, she helped overturn the notion that AV updates were up to end users by creating one of the first Web-based central management consoles that automatically push new signatures to desktops. The trade press and industry analysts were impressed, and Trend continued to improve on groundbreaking work, racking up more than 20 major product awards between 1998 and 2000.

Though Chen, a mother of two, was a driving force behind the technology, she gladly let her sister and CEO brother-in-law publicly tout accomplishments. Chen's profile was nevertheless elevated in 1999 when she received the YWCA's Tribute to Women and Industry Award, which honors executive-level women in major functional roles that substantially impacted their company's growth, profitability and innovation.

Kudos like these come not just from Chen's groundbreaking work in AV but from her business acumen. Chen established the company's first Asian office in her native Taiwan and, once successful, came to California to reestablish a then-struggling U.S. unit. She now manages an international development team of 500, traveling constantly or working evenings from her home office in Pasadena, Calif.

Two years ago, Chen fell ill and was forced to take an extended leave. She returned to her post in 2002 with renewed vigor and a new campaign--trying to force AV researchers to think more like epidemiologists, treating computer and Internet-borne viruses like biological outbreaks. This means creating better tools to isolate "infections" and shielding the rest of the network until a remedy is found.

"We cannot vaccinate the entire network, but we can embed security tools within the infrastructure so that we can contain and cure infections. Containment is the key," she says.

Should she prove successful once again, expect to hear about it--from someone other than Chen.

This was first published in September 2003

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