Internet company Star is offering to put customers' email in 24-hour virus quarantine over the millennium period.
The company, which offers email scanning services as part of its product offering, said the service will be available free to existing customers. It will quarantine all email passing through its network for 24 hours from midnight on 31 December this year.
Star said it would spare IT managers the worry of Internet virus infection over the period, as they expect writers will try to take advantage of Y2K confusion.
Over the quarantine period, Star will analyse all virus related activity and communicate with experts around the world to ascertain whether any Y2K viruses have materialised. If any new viruses are in circulation, the company said it would install the necessary updates before passing the quarantined email through the system and on to its ultimate destination.
Joe White, marketing director at Star, commented: "For many virus writers, this may well provide a historical trigger date when they can gain maximum exposure and catch out network managers who are concentrating on a number of other potential scenarios," he said.
Anti-virus vendors were scornful of the service. "It's an appalling idea," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at UK anti-virus company Sophos.
"It's absolutely bonkers. It doesn't help with the problem - viruses hit every day. Also, warnings come in via email and companies won't get them either if all mail is quarantined. It's better to receive email and deal with it there and then," he said.
"This is an overreaction to the virus problem. It suggests they don't trust the AV scanners they are using to check their mail," he added. Sophos is one of the anti-virus software companies used by Star.
US law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies have so far received more than 30,000 threats from virus writers and hackers planning to turn the millennium celebrations sour.
However, Lou Marcoccio, Y2K expert at research firm Gartner Group, said it isn't clear how many of these are real threats.
In addition, he said companies should expect failures to occur throughout the year and not just over the millennium period, and prepare accordingly.
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