Despite launching a worldwide network of anti-virus centers, partly in response to the exponential growth in ‘macro viruses’ carried by office documents, Symantec Corp plans to leave users of susceptible software other than Microsoft Office without product-specific protection. Enrique Salem, chief technology officer for Symantec’s Peter Norton Product Group, told ComputerWire that to tailor protection for packages such as Lotus SmartSuite or Corel Office might take as little as two weeks but is not an immediate priority. That would change, he said, if a big corporation [were] to say, ‘We got hit. We use Corel Office. What can you do about it?’ Salem, in London to publicise the new $6m Symantec Antivirus Research Center project, said the company’s immediate aim is to open 200 Rapid Response Units worldwide in co-operation with trusted third parties, a goal it hopes to achieve within six months. Each local unit will access and update a virus-ID database held at its regional headquarters, three of which – in Japan, the Netherlands and at Symantec’s Santa Monica base – are already operating. (A fourth HQ will open in Australia in two weeks.) Noting that the Internet is replacing diskettes as a vehicle for virus transmission – new NCSA figures show 35% of viruses are now e-mail-borne, and the figure is rising – Salem said the units will respond quickly to new virus infections, locally and without dependence on United States business hours. The technology used to detect viruses is changing: ‘signatures’ – which identify particular strains of viruses – are being overtaken by heuristics which look for virus- like behavior; and software ‘crawlers’ are being sent to the Internet servers of likely offenders, to actively hunt new viruses. It is likely that future World Wide Web Consortium protocols will allow servers to refuse entry to crawlers. This would allow virus distributors to ban crawlers – among them Symantec’s own Bloodhound system – but Salem states that the company is working with the Consortium to have specific departures for virus-hunting agents incorporated into the protocols.