Security updates get SMS treatment



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1 April 2005 | 0

Dublin based Internet security firm IPOptions has launched an alert service that doesn’t depend on the Internet to inform users about security updates or virus outbreaks.

The service is based on the mobile phone text message system and is offered in conjunction with the mobile application provider Zamano. It sends SMS alerts to IPOptions customers about new viruses spread across the Internet; it also provides real-time information such as updates and patches become available for a client’s specific security systems.

Customers can choose a course of action based on the information they receive. By sending a text reply, they can request assistance from an IPOptions security consultant or ask for hot fixes or software patches to be sent by e-mail.




Text message replies are routed back to IPOptions over Zamano’s infrastructure which is connected to the three Irish mobile phone networks, Vodafone, O2 and Meteor.

The service is database-driven, using customer profiles to tailor relevant messages for each user. For instance, information about a Windows virus does not need to be circulated to Unix sites, just as news of updates to Check Point firewall software is only sent to customers using that supplier’s product. ‘The idea is to dispatch the right information to the right people,’ explained Emmanuel Doubinsky, sales director of Zamano.

There is no upfront cost for the service and users do not have to install any special software. Instead, businesses pay a rental charge and a monthly fee per user.

Doubinsky said that the interactivity of the service makes it a customer relationship management application, as any client who receives information can act on it easily and immediately.

In addition, it has a number of advantages over e-mail, which is the traditional method of disseminating IT security information. ‘The problem with alerts by e-mail is that when there is a virus, the first thing a sysadmin does is turn off their e-mail system. Or, if there is a denial of service attack, the network is down and e-mails can’t get through anyway,’ Doubinsky said. ‘SMS doesn’t depend on the medium that may be faulty. And, it is ubiquitous, so users get messages whether they are in the office or not.’

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