AT&T offers new malware security service

AT&T is now offering business customers a network-based security service that provides Web content and instant messaging filtering. Analysts say it's a step in the right direction.

AT&T Inc. is the latest telecom company to incorporate more security into its offerings, with a new network-based service for business customers that sifts through Web content and instant messaging (IM) traffic in search of malware.

This will allow customers to better control which Web sites employees are visiting.
Stan Quintana,
vice presidentAT&T Security Services

The San Antonio-based company released AT&T Web Security Monday. Stan Quintana, vice president of AT&T Security Services, said customers are clamoring for more security "in the cloud," especially those who lack experienced IT security personnel and the budget for top-of-the-line security add-ons.

"This helps remove the dependency on hardware and software while supporting a defense-in-depth architecture with security features built into different network layers and supporting processes," he said. "This will allow customers to better control which Web sites employees are visiting. URL-filtering capabilities are increasingly critical to companies as a first line of defense to block attacks."

He said AT&T Web Security is designed to monitor all nonencrypted Web traffic, including HTTP requests, and replies to HTTP requests and IM traffic. It can operate independently or become fully integrated with AT&T's other managed security solutions, he added. The new offerings are powered by technology from ScanSafe Inc., a San Mateo, Calif., provider of managed security services.

Specific features include monitoring and reporting of Web traffic at the network level, a Web-based portal for administration and reporting, including customized browser alert capabilities and automated reports; near-real-time scanning of requested Web sites and files; and IM filtering capabilities with storage.

Telecom companies have increasingly focused on security in recent years as customers deal with a growing array of threats.

Verizon offers a security suite, and Comcast offers customers security via McAfee Inc. The Santa Clara, Calif., antivirus firm allows telecom companies to incorporate McAfee products into their own managed security service offerings through a program called the Clean Pipes Initiative. BT Group, formerly known as British Telecommunications, grew its security portfolio when it acquired Counterpane Internet Security Inc. last year. Counterpane's founder and CTO is security luminary Bruce Schneier.

Security analysts see AT&T's new offering as another step in the right direction. Eric Maiwald, senior analyst at Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group, was particularly intrigued by the IM storage filtering capabilities. "That may be of some value to customers who need to be able to report what's going on with IM traffic," he said, adding that carriers have been in the security business for quite some time. "Most of the carriers are offering managed firewalls, IDS and other services."

But while most carriers have jumped into the security fray, analysts have been particularly impressed with AT&T's progress.

"Gartner has AT&T rated higher than the others, as it has been a leader with in-the-cloud security services -- doing the security filtering in the carrier 'cloud' rather than requiring" customers to have add-on filtering devices on site, John Pescatore, vice president and research fellow with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., said in an email exchange. "This approach has many advantages, as the spam and worms and malware are filtered out before they consume the enterprise's Internet bandwidth."

Paul Stamp, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., agreed. "AT&T tends to be first to market with more forward-thinking security services, and this in-the-cloud Web security is no exception," he said in an email exchange. "As with other lines of business, I think they'll do a good job of building on the successes of the best-of-breed partners to integrate Web security into a more comprehensive offering."

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