The IEEE standards group has launched an initiative to bring security vendors together on early-stage technologies.

"We're trying to catch companies at an early stage to enable the industry to move forward quickly," says Jim Wendorf, a technology standards consultant for IEEE, about what's being called the Industry Connections Program.

As an alternative to an industry consortium, the IEEE programme relies mainly on virtual meetings that are attended by registered participants and intended to give the group a chance to start up new activities quickly.

It's not necessary to be an IEEE member to get started, and there are likely to be future programmes of this kind for topics other than security, Wendorf says. It's possible some ideas generated among those in the group will lead to a formal standards track effort, but other may not, he points out.

Although only publicly announced today, the Industry Connections Program has been taking shape for several months. Jeff Green, senior vice president at McAfee's Avert Labs division, said McAfee was among several security firms participating in the program and that the effort is already showing its usefulness.

Anti-malware vendors today swap a huge amount of virus samples among themselves, a tradition of sharing between competitors that goes back decades and has helped the industry improve malware detection. But the drawback is that this swapping of samples takes a lot of time, Green noted.

"We still pass around these very large buckets of malware and dump them on each other," Green said. So one effort in the IEEE security group was to try to improve this process by constructing an electronic delivery mechanism that appends a lot of useful information, such as what might be known about the "bad actors," the IP address or the Web site where samples were first found. The IEEE group has already defined a schema to automate the process as much as possible, which might become a standard.

The next meeting of the IEEE group under the Industry Connections Program will occur in September.