Microsoft Keeps Plugging Holes

If granted approval, Microsoft's purchase of Sybari Software, East Northport, N.Y., will give it a server-level antivirus solution for Exchange, SharePoint, Live Communications Server and Lotus Notes, as well as antispam and content filtering tools.

The Sybari deal was unveiled last week as Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates prepared to take the podium at this week's RSA Conference, where last year he touted plans for shipping homegrown Exchange Edge Services with antivirus features. Two months ago, Microsoft nixed plans to ship that in 2005.

The acquisition means more headaches for ISV partners Symantec and McAfee, which are preparing to battle Microsoft on the desktop antivirus front.

Microsoft acquired antivirus ISV GeCad in 2003 and antispyware ISV Giant Software last December but has not yet released antivirus, antispam or antispyware products or services.

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"[The Sybari acquisition] is not a huge surprise, but there will be a huge impact on other [antispam/antivirus] players," said Ron Herardian, president of Global System Services, a Mountain View, Calif.-based Microsoft solution provider.

The acquisition's impact on ISVs will be mitigated by Sybari's support for multiple antivirus scanning engines offered by third-party ISVs, Microsoft said. Yet partners of Symantec, RSA, Trend Micro and others said Microsoft's entre will hurt those ISVs and partners in the SMB space. "I think we will lose revenue immediately," said Shaq Khan, CEO of security VAR Fortifire, Hayward, Calif. "The SMB market is a big market, but as soon as Microsoft starts selling to those businesses, solution providers like us lose out."

Nevertheless, pressure is mounting on Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., to plug some holes. After the Sybari announcement last week, Microsoft confirmed 19 serious vulnerabilities—10 rated as critical—that could enable hackers to attack Exchange and SharePoint, as well as Windows and Office.

At RSA this year, Gates will urge ISVs to write managed code as a way to better insulate their applications. Yet Microsoft is also expected to reveal more details about its planned antivirus and antispyware subscription service, code-named A1, one company source said. A1 will offer remote monitoring and firewall tools for vulnerability testing and log analysis, said one partner familiar with the A1 alpha code. Microsoft will provide antivirus subscription services for a wide range of customers, he said.

Microsoft has taken some small steps into the security realm by releasing Microsoft AntiSpyware into beta testing and launching a virus removal tool that will be updated with new virus signatures monthly. At a security conference last week, Microsoft executives said the company will issue new signatures and provide an enterprise scanning tool.

MATT VILLANO contributed to this story.