Porn buster: Vericept secures content with VIEW appliances

Employees interested in visiting porn, gambling and hacking Web sites while at work may want to start reconsidering their hobbies now that Vericept Corp. has announced a new line of appliances that can monitor all network traffic for violations of company computing policies.

Vericept announced on Wednesday three new appliances: VIEW (Vericept Intelligent Early Warning) for Network Security, VIEW for Information Protection and VIEW for Custom Analysis. The appliances use Vericept's linguistic and mathematical analysis technology to watch for user-defined policy violations, such as pornography, gambling, threats of violence and more.

The boxes are all 1U (1.75 inches or 4.45 centimeters) rack-mountable appliances running Linux and Vericept's software, according to Mike Reagan, senior vice president of marketing at Vericept, based in Englewood, Colorado. The devices plug into network switches and save copies of all the traffic that passes through them in order to provide analysis, he said.

Unlike some content monitoring systems, Vericept's technology does not rely solely on keywords to pinpoint trouble, but rather uses words and categories and places them in context to help determine the difference between, for example, a reference to one team "killing" another in a sporting event and an actual threat of bodily harm involving company personnel, Reagan said.

All types of inappropriate content, as defined by the user, are logged or screen captured, whether they are sent via HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) -- the protocol used to send Web pages, FTP (File Transfer Protocol), instant messaging or other types of network traffic, Reagan said. The logs are connected to the employee violating policies by either a username, e-mail address or workstation name, he said.

The VIEW for Network Security appliance is designed specifically to give administrators early warnings of hack attempts, especially internal attempts, Reagan said. The appliance can watch for port scans -- often one of the first stages in preparing for an attack, scan material as it is being downloaded to determine whether it is attack code, and attempt to access unauthorized files or systems, in addition to the rules-based content scanning, he said.

VIEW for Network Security costs US$9,995 per appliance and is available immediately worldwide.

VIEW for Information Protection is designed to help companies ensure that their employees are complying with acceptable usage policies. The appliance also monitors network traffic for disclosure of confidential company information and other information-security breaches, Reagan said. The device costs $2,500 with an additional fee based on the number of workstations monitored, starting at $20 per workstation, and is available immediately.

Lastly, VIEW for Custom Analysis allows companies to get greater analysis and reporting on data collected by Vericept technology. VIEW for Custom Analysis can be used as a stand-alone device or in conjunction with Vericept's other appliances. The box costs $5,000.

The ability of the VIEW devices to monitor all TCP/IP traffic will be a big selling point for Vericept, said Brian Burke, senior Internet security analyst at International Data Corp. (IDC). IDC is a division of International Data Group Inc., the parent company of IDG News Service.

"There's a lot of different point solutions out there (for traffic monitoring, but) these guys have a solution that covers all those different forms of communication," he said.

Burke expects that Vericept's products will play well in heavily regulated industries such as financial services firms and healthcare, since Vericept's devices can monitor so many communication protocols. Some financial services companies have had to ban the use of chat programs since there has been no easy way to monitor and log conversations using them, which could lead to legal trouble for those companies, he said.

One potential concern, however, is privacy.

Vericept's Reagan discounts that concern, saying that as long as companies are using these types of products to enforce their policies, employees should not be worried.

IDC's Burke agreed.

"There are some personal privacy concerns, but if it's just used to enforce corporate policy, I don't see it as being a problem."

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