Sharing and the fine art of stopping malware

There are an array of technical and business issues that have to be solved: What format do the files need to be in? Who pays for the bandwidth? And the list goes on and on.

Regardless of these technical issues, there are a number of advantages to sharing – particularly for the average computer user. This user – let’s call him Joe Six-Pack – gets much faster and deeper information about any potential threats than if he kept news of his malware misadventures all to himself.

Just from the perspective of Avira, cooperation has its organizational costs – but brings clear benefits down the road.

Avira was one of a “Gang of Five” security companies that set up MUTE, the Malware URL Tracking and Exchange back in 2008.

Five MUTE colleagues in hot pursuit of malware
Five MUTE colleagues in hot pursuit of malware

Avira web developers were volunteered by the company and shared their expertise to set up the backend infrastructure for the group’s members to combine and share their collections of malicious web addresses. The initial outline of Avira’s system specs could be placed on four PDF slides. Today, the system is far more complex and requires a whopping 44 slides to describe its operations. And that is not all of the sharing. Avira also founded VIREX, a web-based application for helping security analysts organize their bits and pieces of malicious code, clean samples, and URLs. Yes, Avira is proud of its sharing efforts.

But you could still ask, what does Avira get out of its investment in sharing — addition to fresher bits of malware? I can think of two primary benefits.

1. Greater back-office expertise in coordinating data flows.
2. Experience in collaborative working outside of the company environment.

Put these two advantages together and there is a third one:

3. Avira expertise that can fit under the banner of other companies as an OEM product.

That is exactly what we have done with the recently announced Lavasoft deal. We’ve licensed our new  Avira URL Cloud (MURL) and program classification service (AUC) to Lavasoft and they’ll  use this to beef up the security levels in their Ad-Aware Web Companion.

Sharing is a good thing – whether in a real or a virtual sandbox.  It makes life a better, richer, and yes, more secure experience.

This post is also available in: Italian

As a PR Consultant and journalist, Frink has covered IT security issues for a number of security software firms, as well as provided reviews and insight on the beer and automotive industries (but usually not at the same time). Otherwise, he’s known for making a great bowl of popcorn and extraordinary messes in a kitchen.