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Dennis Turpitka, the founder of Ukrainian software development company Apriorit, is looking for beta-testers for his new venture, Hypertection. Hypertection is an antivirus software application for virtual environments, which dramatically increases the security of virtual machines whilst reducing the cost of antivirus licenses by an order of magnitude. Here is how:
Hypertection is installed not on the operating system level of the virtual machine, but on a lower level closer to that of software. This level is called hypervisor, and is the key element of any virtual system. In this way, the antivirus software for the virtual environment is hidden from the viruses and can effectively neutralize them.
If this makes you scratch your head, keep reading.
As servers become more and more powerful, virtualization technology is on the rise. With the help of virtualization applications such as that of Russia’s Parallels, a server can be divided into virtual environments, each dedicated to separate clients. In this way the server capacity can be optimized, for example, by a hosting company. Virtual machines are becoming commonplace; however the security systems that protect the virtual machines are lagging behind.
At the moment, all antivirus programs run on the operating system level of the virtual machine, so if a server is divided into ten virtual machines, then ten copies of the antivirus software are required, at ten times the cost of a single license. Running antivirus software simultaneously on all of the virtual machines slows down the processing speed, although this is not the main problem.
The problem of all current antivirus packages is that they are installed on the operating system’s level. So are the viruses. “A virus operates by changing the behavior of the operating system, and antivirus [software] neutralizes this, and vice versa,” explains Turpitka. “The game of virus developers and antivirus software companies is like an arms race; the virus developers find ‘holes’ in the antivirus packages, and get the virus through the shield. The antivirus software developers find those holes and fix them in the new software releases.”
Turpitka and his team have discovered that the solution is in moving antivirus software outside of the protected environment: out of the operating system, and onto the hypervisor level. The virus can only counteract antivirus software installed on the same operating system level. This way, Hypertection becomes invisible to the virus, but still can identify the viruses and neutralize them.
Apriorit has bootstrapped its development efforts so far by using bench resources at its 90-person-strong outsourcing firm. They have been providing system development services to their clients in the field of virtualization and security for over 9 years. During this time the company has also financed extensive R&D efforts, which helped them get new work from existing clients. This time, the company used its findings to create its own product.
There are other benefits of Hypertection, including its ability to scan switched-off virtual machines, regulate the processing power requirements by spreading security tests over time, and simplify its own deployment as a new solution by using existing server-level antivirus packages. Currently, Hypertection only works for Hyper-V, the Microsoft hypervisor. In the near future the company will also release a basic version for VMware‘s ESXi hypervisor.
The current competition the company faces is the OS-based legacy antivirus packages, which have the disadvantages stated above: virus vulnerability, heavy load on the server and a high price – the license has to be paid based on virtual machine count, and server count. Then there is Trend Micro, which defends virtual environments using vShield a more popular product from VMWare, a part of which is installed on the OS, and therefore is subject to the same threats as standard antivirus programs.
Turpitka plans to spin Hypertection off into a new company, most likely to be located in the UK and the US, and transfer intellectual property to the new entity. He was also planning to apply to a few startup competitions. I hope this serious technology wins, but I wish the best of luck to those responsible for the technology due diligence.
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