Layered Defenses Needed Vs Viruses

June 28, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — When a potent computer virus infected multiple locations in a local corporation's network, the company called upon a local technology integration firm for help.

And Michael Noordyke, president of Remex Corp., said he had to send in a virtual SWAT team.

"With an enormous amount of work and $70,000 worth of costs later, the problem was under control," Noordyke said.

It didn't have to be that way, Noordyke added.

But he said that because viruses are spreading rapidly, he urges companies to think of virus protection as analogous to the military idea of a defense in depth: a multilayered, coordinated system.

"A quality virus protection plan should include layers of protection," Noordyke said. "A firewall won't necessarily protect from viruses entering the network, but is a good player to have on the team — it will keep intruders off the network."

Unfortunately, he said, with most networks connected to the Internet for e-mail, downloads and browsing, firms are exposed to many more outside threats. "Simply putting virus protection on your PCs does not cut it anymore," he said.

He explained that a gateway appliance installed just after the firewall is a good second layer.

"Other crucial layers include protecting the network at various entry points on the server levels, such as e-mail and Web servers, and having each desktop workstation protected with software that regularly seeks virus signature files as a form of protection."

Referring to the task facing what he called the Remex SWAT team, Noordyke said the "I Love You" virus had devastated a client's three-location network.

"We had people working on the network in Grand Rapids, the Detroit area and out of state. We had to reformat all the hard drives and reinstall everything just to get them running again. A comprehensive antivirus plan could have saved this company about $70,000."

What used to be a prudent computer network add-on is now a dire necessity, Noordyke added.

He said computer virus technology continues to grow and mutate — with names such as "Klez" and "SirCam" — making it that much more crucial to have effective virus detection software working to protect company networks and computers.

"If you don't protect your company networks properly, a single virus or worm program that enters your network through e-mail or download could disable your entire company," Noordyke said.

He said Information Week magazine reports that virus damage exceeded $1.5 trillion in 2000, and the number is growing at an alarming rate.

The result, Noordyke says, is that rudimentary virus protection or none at all is no longer an option.

"The viruses are going to keep coming, and without a very sophisticated protection system, some are likely to get through," Noordyke said. "Virus protection today requires constant vigilance and great coordination."

He said that in protecting a computer system as in securing a nation, it's a new age that calls for new solutions.

Remex has operated in West Michigan since the early 1970s.

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