ISPs and the fight against viruses

Being a gateway brings with it responsibilities...

Being a gateway brings with it responsibilities...

ISPs have today caught the ire of the anti-virus community for not working hard enough to rid the web of viruses. David Perry, director of public education at Trend Micro, called for ISPs to start delivering "clean water at the tap" for computer users everywhere. About time, we think. The water utility analogy is instructive. As the internet industry continues to grow up, ISP services will more often be compared to any other utility we shell out for. You wouldn't accept polluted water from your water company, and you shouldn't have to accept damaging data from your ISP. Not only are ISPs in the best position to clean this data, ultimately it will be cheaper for everyone. This hasn't happened so far for three reasons. First, in a difficult and cutthroat market ISPs (especially consumer ones) are loathe to bear the cost of implementing virus software. Second, ISPs don't want to risk legal liability if they offer protection, make a mistake, and infect their customers anyway. Third - and most disappointingly - the anti-virus vendors haven't pushed the idea because they fear protection at the ISP level will ultimately mean fewer customers for them. However, this attitude is damaging when the reality is that most small businesses and home users just haven't the time (or often the skill) to keep AV software up-to-date. Now, thankfully, some in the vendor community are seeing sense. This is just a case where the industry has to work together for the good of everyone. Of course this isn't a panacea, and this policy couldn't stop viruses overnight. There are still many viruses that don't come via email, and determined virus writers would be able to avoid detection from ISPs by encrypting the code. However, somewhere around 80 per cent of viruses do come via the internet. A few good ISPs already filter out large quantities of them. Others don't. You know who you are - we urge you to reconsider. For related news, see:
Virus guru lays security blame at ISPs' do