Dasient Tries to Run Drive-By Malware Off the Web

Posted by: Rob Hof on June 16, 2009

Even if you’re careful to use an Internet firewall, install virus checkers, and avoid sketchy Web sites, your computer can still get invaded by virus, worms, and other so-called malware that can steal data or damage your machine. A relatively new form of malware gets distributed just by your visiting an infected Web site, even if you don’t click on a trick link.

This drive-by style of malware is what a startup called Dasient, launching in beta test mode today, aims to thwart. Dasient’s product, called Web Anti-Malware, isn’t for consumers, which have plenty of PC- and Web-based tools such as firewalls to try to thwart malware. It’s for companies whose businesses can be brought to their knees by getting blacklisted by search engines, Web browsers, and desktop anti-virus programs as sites that might be dangerous, effectively halting all traffic to the site.

Often these infected sites, 80% of which are legitimate, don’t even know they’ve been compromised, which can happen through the use of old, vulnerable Web server software, through running a malicious ad distributed through an advertising network, and other means. “The way that malware gets on the Internet has fundamentally changed,” says Dasient cofounder Neil Daswani. And as fellow cofounder Ameet Ranadive adds, “If you’re a Web site and you get blacklisted, that’s a big problem.”

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Dasient offers a free blacklist monitoring service, providing alerts to the Web site (screenshot above). A premium service, starting at $50 a month for a small site, monitors the Web site for malicious software code and provides diagnostics to fix the problem. That's now in an expanded beta. And a quarantining service that will roll out in private beta to customers that request it automatically contains the infected code to keep it from infecting visitors--and prevent blacklisting.

Dasient says it offers the only complete Web anti-malware product. I can't confirm that claim, though it appears Dasient has gone further than some out there, such as Google, which offers free tools for Webmasters to detect and deal with malware infections. But if reports are correct that this kind of malware is on the rise, it seems likely there's a ready market for the product. Dasient says several thousand small and medium-sized businesses are trying out the alpha version. And according to StopBadware.org, a group of companies and academics, a couple hundred thousand sites are infected at any one time.

The company, founded by former Googlers Daswani and Shariq Rizvi and former McKinsey consultant Ranadive, has received a little over $2 million from investors that include tech heavyweights Stratton Sclavos (former Verisign CEO), Mike Maples Jr. (managing partner of Maples Investments), and Eric Benhamou (CEO of Benhamou Global Ventures, and former CEO of 3Com).

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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