Sophos picks fight with small-business zombies

Sophos has launched a new security product designed to make it easier for small companies to protect their PCs from being hijacked by spammers

Antivirus company Sophos launched a security software product on Monday that aims to help smaller businesses protect their PCs from being hijacked and used as spam relays.

UK-based Sophos estimates that more than one-third of all spam is sent from "zombie" computers that have been hijacked by a Trojan horse or worm. Because enterprises are generally well-equipped to protect their PCs from known vulnerabilities, it is small business and consumers that are most at risk from the spammer's malware.

Sophos' senior technical consultant, Graham Cluley, said the company's Small Business Suite contains simplified versions of its enterprise applications that are designed for the less technical user: "Our software in the past has had lots of configuration options that do not suit small-business users at all. This has simple installation, auto updates and user-friendly management so they don't have to worry about doing anything very complicated," he said.

The Sophos Small Business Suite includes separate antivirus and anti-spam applications. Puremessage is the anti-spam component and the first product to appear following Sophos's £14m acquisition of ActiveState in September 2003.

One of the key elements to the Small Business Suite is that both antivirus and anti-spam products are set to automatically download the latest threat signatures from Sophos's Web site as often as once an hour. Cluley said this is to ensure that its customers are protected from fast-spreading attacks: "If a new virus comes out in the morning, by midday it is everywhere. So if you wait till 9 p.m. each night to update your antivirus that is not good enough," he said.

Matt Cain, vice president at Meta Group, said in a statement that the increased threats means smaller businesses need to take a proactive approach to security: "A multi-layered, integrated antivirus and anti-spam solution that is preconfigured and simple to operate and maintain, is key for the email security of small businesses," he said.

The Sophos Small Business Suite is available immediately and costs £319 for a five-user licence.