UK businesses are joining forces to help detect computer virus outbreaks early and minimise their impact.
The Enterprise Virus Alert Community (Evac) is a neighbourhood watch scheme linking email administrators from around 20 companies, including two high street banks and several technology companies, who then use email or short message service (SMS) to inform each other when they spot a virus outbreak.
Alex Morgan, Evac founder and technical support consultant at Intelisys, said: "It's a very simple idea really and it saves a lot of people a lot of time. If someone in the group sees or is infected by a virus, they email the group. An email notification and SMS message then notifies the administrators so they can make plans to avoid infection."
He said the system was particularly effective against the recent Life Stages virus which hit companies across the globe in June.
Life Stages arrives as a joke about the male and female stages of life, with many different subject lines including "Funny". The body of the email contains the text: "The male and female stages of life", and has the file LIFE_STAGES.TXT.SHS attached. Once the attachment is opened, the worm creates files of random names throughout the local system and on all available drives. The worm also emails itself to everyone in the infected user's Microsoft Outlook address book.
"When this virus hit the US I got an SMS message in the middle of the night. This meant I was able to get into the office early and protect our users and get the information out to other Evac members. I know we have saved companies money," said Morgan.
He said he does not believe that the antivirus industry does enough to protect users against these infections.
"They should be more proactive in what they do. As part of the licence for their software they should force administrators to become members of a scheme like this. Quite often, users have to wait for the antivirus companies to develop a fix before they are notified of a new virus," he said.
Graham Cluley senior technology consultant at UK based antivirus company Sophos, said: "The problem is, we're not sure straightaway what each virus does. We are in a difficult situation as we don't want to send out duff information. We are quite happy to be the police in this neighbourhood watch scheme."
Morgan said that while the group currently has around 20 members, they are hoping to expand. "It doesn't matter what size the company is - any size is welcome," he said.
To contact Evac, email [email protected]
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