Fuelled by an alliance with Internet "push" tech- nology developer BackWeb Technologies, McAfee is offering a beta version of a software maintenance plan for VirusScan 95.
Dubbed SecureCast, the service provides news alerts and delivers automated anti-virus software updates directly to desktops.
Although it was initially aimed at home users, McAfee plans to roll out SecureCast to its corporate customers RSN (real soon now). Overall, it provides an impressive first look at push technology in action.
In addition to virus updates and news alerts, McAfee plans to push security advisories from the US Computer Emergency Response Team and the US Department of Energy's Computer Incident Advisory Capability, along with white papers and technical notes.
I subscribed to the SecureCast service by connecting to the McAfee Web site (www.mcafee.com) and downloading the free SecureCast BackWeb client.
At 2.2Mb, the download took approximately 15 minutes over a standard 28.8Kbit/sec modem connection. The BackWeb client installs itself using a standard Windows 95 installation wizard, and it is pre-configured for use with SecureCast.
Once it has been completely installed, the BackWeb client is capable of receiving InfoPaks from McAfee's BackWeb server.
As a basic unit of information transmission, an InfoPak can contain sounds, pictures, animation, text, or Web pages. As new InfoPaks from the SecureCast channel are received, they are automatically displayed on the PC.
The first one I received was a welcome infor-mation packet from McAfee. Although the documentation said the first InfoPak would arrive within one to two days, I received mine within an hour.
Besides verifying that my connection to the SecureCast channel was working, the InfoPak connected me back to McAfee's Web site to collect some administrative information and complete online registration.
Most of the time, an InfoPak waits for you to do something with it. Usually, an image and sound will try to get your attention.
Clicking on the image launches the rest of the InfoPak. Right-clicking on the InfoPak displays a menu with additional options allowing you to stop, delete, or play the InfoFlash later.
After the initial welcome packet, I received an updated anti-virus signature file for VirusScan 95.
The BackWeb client is fairly transparent. By default, the client is configured to allow all other Internet applications to take priority and uses your connection only when it is idle. You can set the client to have a higher priority or disable the channel completely if you're concerned about network traffic. Other channel options include the ability to control how much disk space may be used for storing InfoPaks and whether InfoPaks should be immediately played when they arrive.
Although I liked the basic configuration options, I would like to see the BackWeb client expanded to allow for different priority settings based on time of day. Among other things, this would allow you to have specific channels enabled and disabled automatically and could allay some fears about network bandwidth usage during peak hours.
Built-in security to prevent BackWeb preference files from being altered by unauthorised users would be an added bonus, particularly for IS managers looking to deploy push technology on a site-wide basis.
Push technology is a hot topic right now, but it remains to be seen whether widespread adoption is in the cards. This early SecureCast version strongly suggests that push services will foster increased productivity.
The price for the service can't be beat, the client is easy to install, and it provides an easy way to stay current on new virus threats.
One of the first in a long line of products and services offered via Internet push technology, SecureCast makes it easy to stay up to date on computer viruses. The client software is easy to install and uses your idle Internet connection to deliver information and virus signature file updates directly to your desktop.
Pros: Easy client setup
Cons: No sitewide control
Price: Free to current McAfee VirusScan 95customers.
Platform: Windows 95
Ship date: Beta now available for downloadMcAfee Agent in Australia:
The Paradigm Agency
Tel (02) 9437 5866ÊFax (02) 9439 5166