Auckland couple develop virus blocker

Auckland couple Dave and Margaret Watson say they have invented a virus stopper that tackles the problem from a direction different to other antivirus software.

Their 18-month-old company, Ripple Effects, has developed PrivateBase, which they say is unique because it places the email address book outside the browser, stopping viruses from entering address books and propagating themselves.

The software took the pair four months to develop and they are distributing it free at www.PrivateBase.com, before introducing a "nominal charge" of $US5 at some point.

"After selecting the addresses from PrivateBase, the software automatically loads the browser. There are no additional keystrokes [or mouse clicks] compared to the conventional method of writing an email," says Watson.

"Normally one would first load the browser and then choose the email address. With PrivateBase, one simply reverses this order: run PrivateBase to choose addresses, and Private Base then automatically loads the browser," he says.

Watson says PrivateBase isn't a virus scanner, so users still need antivirus software. But he claims it could have halted the Love Bug virus, which inflicted costs estimated at $US10 billion on computer users, in its tracks.

"I reckon the big anti-virus software companies are not using this system to stop viruses leaving a PC because it will put them out of business. They rely on viruses for their living."

Symantec New Zealand manager Richard Batchelar says he is impressed by the sound of the product, which Symantec will look closely at. But he believes Symantec's future is secure as not all viruses come through email.

With the growing number of patches and solutions forcing hackers to look at other methods, "the email threat will be a thing of the past".

"PrivateBase has great merit but it won't bring the death of Symantec," Batchelar says.

Christchurch-based anti-virus researcher Nick FitzGerald says he has downloaded the software but has yet to test it. However, he is "very dubious" about the "hyperbole" from the couple. Many viruses, such as the current Sircam virus, also trawl the internet for email addresses so could still infect systems, even if PrivateBase works as claimed, he says.

Story courtesy of IDGNet NZ.

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