McAfee Patents Firewall Tracking Technology

Jeff Berg
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Antivirus firm McAfee was just awarded a patent Tuesday that covers, in part, firewall systems that track connection events.

Patent No. 6,839,852, described by McAfee as protecting its development of a “firewall system and method with network-mapping capabilities,” appears to detail an application that not only records traffic events but also displays their geographic location on a world map.

“Often, a user may wish to monitor the events to assess the current state of security of the device for the purposes of modifying the filtering criteria,” said McAfee. “Unfortunately, typical personal firewalls merely list IP addresses associated with the source of the attempts and possibly names of network segments. This alphanumeric listing approach is cumbersome and fails to convey the information of interest intuitively.”

McAfee said that their newly patented technology corrects this problem.

Using technology acquired through the purchase of the NeoTrace application in 2002, McAfee began to market a program called Visual Trace and then integrated it into the company security suite shortly afterward.

“With this technology, McAfee customers can illustratively ascertain the geographic origin of potentially malicious traffic events,” Vincent Rossi, McAfee senior viceo present of product management and marketing, told BetaNews.

While McAfee has not yet announced whether it intends to pursue licensing agreements or patent violation lawsuits with other security application developers, the new patent may cause problems for companies like Zone Labs and Symantec.

Zone Labs, makers of the ZoneAlarm Pro Security Suite, currently include a program called AlterAdvisor that allows users to analyze intrusion attempts and includes a graphical tracking utility that maps traceroute information on a global map, a feature virtually identical to McAfee’s patented technology.

Symantec offers a similar product.