With a trial partnership between Zirius and SureTech, a division of technology firm Topaz, over, SureTech has moved out of the Research Park space it rented from Zirius.
Now that the tech firms’ union will not occur, Zirius is taking a larger interest in Internet and systems security, according to Zirius CEO David Henry.
The two firms had entered a trial partnership in 2008, which sought to marry Zirius, a computer networking firm specializing in online backup, system tools, and subscription services, with web tech firm SureTech.
As viruses become more sophisticated and aggressive, Henry says, businesses are going to need better ways of dealing with them. Zirius, he says, is hoping to help smaller businesses compete with larger ones in the way they tackle viruses.
Just how sophisticated are viruses these days? Consider your online banking password. You type it into the little box the bank gives you on their secure page — but the virus you didn’t know you had is taking your keystrokes and transmitting them to a site where they print out on a screen alpha-numerically, as if they were part of an E-mail.
Other viruses are programmed from their sender to mutate as they go. Have you noticed just how many people send you the exact same Viagra ad? This is made possible, Henry says, by viruses designed to communicate with a master computer and change with each new set of instructions, several times a day — or hour.
And while this is crafty enough to generate lavish amounts of spam, viruses are also programmed to stay under the radar of major Internet security companies like Symantec by simply not affecting enough computers to get noticed.
Large-scale security companies sweep the web looking for trouble, which they find by noticing the same issue repeating itself on large numbers of computers. But, Henry says, current virus incarnations are aiming smaller, infecting, say, only 5,000 computers, turning them into drones that emit viruses, spam, and other malware to only another 5,000 computers.
And while it might sound obvious to say that organized criminals are behind these schemes, the truth is that cyber gangsters are investing in new virus software as generously as any legitimate business would invest in new technologies.
Defending against it is tough, Henry admits. It takes a lot of reading, a lot of patience, and a lot of observation to keep up with more sophisticated botnets. The one advantage is that viruses tend to build from themselves, rather than start anew. So you can look for patterns in programming that signal trouble.
But it’s still an ever-escalating battle. And by the way, those major viruses that wipe out systems entirely, like the infamous “I Love You” virus from 2000? Smokescreens, Henry says. Likely designed as camouflage to make more people think that virus writers are anti-technology nuts out to just destroy cyberspace.
Henry says Zirius is taking this new direction, which he refers to as the “holistic approach.” According to the company’s website, “Our typical customer has 5 to 50 workstations, is a professional organization, and relies heavily on E-mail, the Internet, and their computer network for running their business.” And for them, he says, Zirius provides managed IT services that help keep them safe.
Meanwhile, SureTech, owned by Alberto Molina, now operates in New York and can be reached at www.suretech.com, or by calling 212-481-1681.
Topaz and SureTech are the brainchildren of Alberto Molina. Born in Colombia, Molina came to Rhode Island when he was 3 years old, when his father attended Brown to earn his Ph.D. in biomechanical engineering. Molina’s mother also attended Brown, for a master’s in genetics.
Molina himself, however, was drawn not to science, but to theater. He wanted to study acting at Yale, but couldn’t, since the program is only a graduate program there.
He attended Yale anyway and earned his bachelor’s in literature in 1993, setting off for New York to run his own theater company. “That obviously didn’t make money,” he says.
But the temping market was good in New York and the jobs to which he was assigned got him familiar with offices and corporate styles. Soon he found himself building a database for Schlumberger, training people to work in web applications, and, before the Internet bubble popped, worked for iTurf.com, a highly popular teen culture website that went belly-up in 2001.
Zirius Inc., 332 Wall Street, Princeton 08540; 800-270-5557; fax, 609-920-0331. David Henry, president. Home page: www.zirius.us.
SureTech, 18 West 27th Street, New York. Alberto Molina, owner. Home page: www.suretech.com.