Awalnet secures Saudi e-mail

Saudi internet service provider creates an online antivirus gateway to help the Kingdom’s businesses protect themselves against infection.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  April 1, 2004

|~|awalnet_m.jpg|~|Spam has become a big issue for Saudi Arabian internet users over the past few months.|~|Saudi Arabian internet service provider (ISP) Awalnet has extended its security offerings with the introduction of an online antivirus scanning gateway. Based on McAfee’s antivirus and anti-spam software, the solution scans all incoming attachments. If a virus is detected, the attachment is automatically cleaned and forwarded to the intended recipient. If the McAfee solution cannot fix or quarantine an infected e-mail, it is returned to the sender with a notice stating why it was undeliverable. Although the offering was still in its soft launch phase at the time of going to press, Awalnet already claims to be blocking more than one hundred thousand viruses per day and preventing infection for its many subscribers. “The internet world is full of wonderful things, but just like the offline world it can also be dangerous. That’s why Awalnet offers our users an easy and convenient package of features that can help protect them from the hazards of an always-on connection,” says Abdallah Aldubaikhi, AwalNet’s president. “With built-in defences to help guard against viruses, Trojan Horses and hackers, Awalnet helps members practice safe internet [access],” he adds. The online antivirus gateway is currently being delivered as a value-add to Awalnet’s dial-up and corporate subscribers. However, the ISP plans to turn it into a revenue stream by eventually charging users for the service. “During the first year it will be free of charge for dial-up users and there will also be a period of free usage for our corporate customers so that they can feel the difference. There will then be charges for the service,” explains Mahmoud Soubra, vice president of marketing & business development at Awalnet. Soubra believes a large number of users within the Kingdom will sign up for the online antivirus gateway, even though they will eventually have to pay for it. Key to this demand is the increased number of viruses and the proliferation of spam that has begun to plague Saudi internet users. “In the past four months Saudi users have starting getting a lot of spam and viruses. Now it is becoming very serious and people are getting concerned about it. As a result, I expect at least 500 of our existing corporate customers to sign up for the online antivirus gateway,” he says. “[The service] will also help us attract new customers from the local market and we expect somewhere between 500-700 to sign up for it,” Soubra adds. A further benefit, which Soubra believes will help drive adoption among enterprises, is that Awalnet is essentially providing an outsourced antivirus solution. This in turn means local IT mangers can not only remove the cost of antivirus software from their annual budgets, but also ease the management headache faced by their own IT teams. “Even if an IT manager ensures that there is antivirus [software] on users’ laptops there is still a risk of infection, as many people do not update their antivirus software. Therefore any businessman today would love to be able to get rid of the headache of worms and viruses entering his network and infecting PCs and laptops,” says Soubra. “Enterprises will sign up for this because of the headaches it prevents in terms of investments and upgrades,” he adds. To ensure subscribers to the online antivirus gateway get the protection they need, and to help IT managers convince business users that outsourcing a key part of their security needs is viable, Awalnet is using McAfee’s standard service level agreement (SLA). This means the service is guaranteed 99.5% of the time. “While end users will normally experience a delay when it comes to updating their antivirus software, our online service will have all of the latest patches immediately,” Soubra adds. To support the launch of its online antivirus gateway, Awalnet has embarked on an educational campaign for business users that attempts to explain to them just how important the protection of their internet connection is. ||**||

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