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Microsoft updated two endpoint security products in the Forefront family this week, as it continues to position security as not only a means of protecting assets but of allowing companies and their employees to get their jobs done.

Forefront Threat Management Gateway 2010 acts as a Web security gateway and is an upgrade from a technology and branding perspective from Microsoft’s legacy Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2006, according to Joel Sider, senior project manager for Microsoft’s Infrastructure division.

Sider underscored the need for such a gateway based on the results of Microsoft’s semi-annual security intelligence report, which showed that phishing threats alone quadrupled since May and that social networking activity and sites accounted for more than three-quarters of all phishing impressions. In addition to those threats, the Forefront Threat Management Gateway 2010 also protects employee Web use against malware, malicious web sites and vulnerabilities, Sider added.

The new gateway features the Microsoft Reputation Based Service, which is a cloud-based database that pulls information from a variety of Web-based sources – Windows Live, Internet Explorer 8, and external, non-Microsoft Web sources – and applies analysis that ensures more secure Web browsing within a company.

“We capture 95 percent of the top one million Web sites out there and analyze and categorize them,” he said. “So as a customer using our gateway can apply policies they have as a company to specify which categories of Web sites users cannot access – malware, phishing, or inappropriate sites.”

The second new product, Forefront Unified Access Gateway, is a remote access endpoint security solution for remote and mobile employees that need secure access to applications, data and other resources when outside the firewall, he said. This includes email from an Exchange Server or documents housed inside a Microsoft Sharepoint Server, with connectivity options including VPN, Secure Socket Layer or direct access capabilities found in just-released Windows 7 that factor in identities inside network directories, he explained.

“This tight integration makes things easier to manage on a broad scalable way than with traditional VPNs,” he said.

Microsoft is hoping to capture the attention of more security-focused partner channel. Participation in the security competency inside the Microsoft Partner Network has increased 20 percent thus far this year, Sider said. The selling opportunity has spanned every level of customer size, from SMB on up, but partners and Microsoft have lately seen more traction in the upper midmarket and enterprise levels for the Forefront products.

Tactics to gain additional security partners have centered around incentive programs. Microsoft has rolled out a Security Software Advisor (SSA) program that rewards partners for reselling Forefront products with rebates per license ranging from 10 percent to 20 percent based on the solution sold. The program also builds in financial perks for attaching other Microsoft products to the Forefront sale, Sider said.