HP moves network scanning software into beta

Hewlett-Packard Co. has moved its Active Counter Measures network security software into beta tests with a select group of European and North American customers in hopes of readying the product for a 2005 release, an HP executive said at the HP World conference in Chicago Wednesday.

“We’ve been working with (customers) for the last month now,” said Tony Redmond, vice-president and chief technology officer with HP Services in an interview. “We’re fine tuning it now and making sure it’s good to go,” he said.

The company is hoping to release the software as a product in 2005, Redmond said.

Active Counter Measures is software designed in HP Labs that uses techniques similar to those of network attackers to scan the network for machines that might be vulnerable to attack. Instead of installing a virus or malicious software, however, it installs a software patch, which repairs the vulnerability.

“This is a good worm,” said Redmond. “It’s turning the techniques (of the attackers) back on them.”

HP is still working out the details of how to market the product, which was first disclosed in February of this year, but it seems unlikely that it will be included as part of the company’s OpenView suite of management software, according to Redmond. “I think it’s more likely to be a service,” he said.

Active Counter Measures could also be integrated into a hardware offering, Redmond said. “It’s definitely the type of technology that could be built into an appliance,” he said.

HP’s network administrators, who manage two large “Class A” networks capable of hosting approximately 33 million transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP) addresses, have not been affected by a worm or a virus since 2002, in part because of the company’s deployment of Active Counter Measures, Redmond said.

Though other vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. offer similar software, HP’s own internal use of Active Counter Measures is noteworthy, said Mike Ciembronowicz, a systems administrator with Amgen Inc. in Longmond, Colo.

“It’s remarkable that they’ve managed to keep viruses out of those two large networks for the past few years,” he said.

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