Antivirus companies muting false alarms

A new Symantec tool is designed to squelch e-mail notifications that wrongly tell people they've sent e-mail containing a virus. Other security companies are likely to follow suit.
Written by Will Sturgeon, Contributor
They were wrong, and they were annoying, so now they've been stopped.

With a new version of Symantec's SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) e-mail security product, the antivirus company is trying to end the proliferation of false e-mail notifications, which wrongly tell people they've sent e-mail containing a virus.

These messages are a growing nuisance, even for systems uninfected by any type of virus. In fact, the infected system generally belongs to someone else; the false notifications originate on the infected computer and are sent to the people listed in that machine's address book.

Some people have been getting so frustrated at the high numbers of such e-mails that they have been dubbed "as annoying as spam," according to Greg Day, an architect at rival antivirus company Network Associates.

Concerns about system resources and storage, as well as employee productivity, played a major part in the planning of the product. The new version not only does away with the in-box-cluttering e-mail notifications but also removes malware, Symantec said.

Network Associates' Day is confident that all major antivirus companies will follow suit--including his own. He added, however, that many corporate customers "as an interim measure have already turned off user alerts."

"It's something we will do with each relevant product as soon as possible," Day said.

Will Sturgeon of Silicon.com reported from London.

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