Entering the murky world of a virus hunter

MARK Lapins hunts computer viruses. The managing director of Netguard watches the web and listens to rumours to spot some of the 100 or so viruses it’s estimated are released onto the World Wide Web every week.

Mr Lapins said it was inevitable web surfers would suffer infected computers, it was just a matter of when.

“It sounds like it’s an alarmist statement, but it’s not. The odds are there that you will get a virus,” he said.

“You can go to a website and download one of 30 virus constructor kits and anyone can sit there without any programming knowledge and churn out a virus. The chances are very good that you are going to get a virus.

“The estimate is that 100-plus viruses or variations are released per week. Some of them are self-mutating and some are variations of variations, but there is a huge amount of this happening.”

Netguard, a subsidiary of Online Business Solutions, is Perth-based Internet service provider that enables secure, virus-protected Internet access.

Mr Lapins believes the service is unique to Australia and one of only a few such services internationally.

The company recently protected its clients from infection from the Naked Wife, Anna Kournikova and Mawanella viruses.

Mr Lapins said ISP-based protection allowed quicker response to new viruses than disk-based software.

“Disk-based virus software just doesn’t keep up anymore. The viruses are coming in so quickly that you can’t keep with the outbreaks,” he said.

“Generally your updates are only released every week or every couple of weeks, and that’s not good enough

“When we had the homepage virus come out it took several vendors, and a couple of them who I won’t name, several weeks to come up with a new virus signature file. We are totally focused on making sure viruses don’t get through this network.”

Development on the software and tools to provide ISP-based protection started about a year ago.

The big test for Netguard came with the Homepage virus, which infected Federal Parliament systems just hours after it appeared in the US.

“The test for us was Homepage. That came out in the United States at 6:30 in the morning, our time, and by early afternoon we were stopping it from coming through to users connected to us. That was right about the time Parliament was hit by it,” Mr Lapins said.

Netguard’s clients are local small to medium businesses, including Tyre Power, Auto-masters, Swan Cottage homes and a law firm looking to ensure the privacy and security of its client records.

However, the company is set to target residential Internet users.

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