Check Point Software has beefed up its enterprise security gateways, in an effort to protect corporate networks against the risks associated with IM and peer-to-peer application such as Skype.

The security vendor announced that its enterprise security gateways now have the ability to block Skype v3.5, the latest version of the popular consumer VoIP application.

It utilises Check Point’s SmartDefense integrated intrusion prevention capabilities, as part of Check Point’s “ongoing efforts to help enterprises better manage the risks from consumer software downloaded by employees for personal use.”

SmartDefense is a set of integrated intrusion prevention capabilities that resides in all Check Point products.

The company justifies the addition of Skype v3.5 management and blocking capabilities, because a new virus called “w32/Ramex.A” is currently spreading through Skype for Windows. Infected users send a chat message to other Skype users, asking them to click on a web link that can infect the computer of the recipient.

It is not unusual for worms to use the Skype network, but Check Point has opted for the sledge hammer approach by allowing the IT administrator to secure the corporate network by simply blocking Skype use until the virus storm has passed, or limiting use to versions not affected.

“IM, Skype and P2P applications are exciting new ways to communicate and collaborate, but enterprises must have control over anything with the potential to introduce new threats into the network,” said Dave Burton, director of product marketing at Check Point.

Meanwhile in a separate announcement, Check Point has also unveiled a public beta of the new ZoneAlarm ForceField, which allows consumers to “bank and shop online, or surf dangerous areas of the Internet without fear or limitation.”

ZoneAlarm ForceField integrates with Internet Explorer or Firefox browsers, and it erases all personal information after a Web browsing session. Features include browser virtualisation, anti-phishing technology, ZoneAlarm’s Spy Site Blocker and additional download defences.

Users can download the free public beta of ZoneAlarm ForceField here. The final version of the product is expected to become available in early 2008 and will be offered for $29.95.