“Antivirus is dead” – Brian Dye, VP Information Security, Symantec (maker of Norton AV)
We have some awesome tools at Computer & Software Solutions. And we love to use them. Every computer that comes into our facility, regardless of the reason, is eventually subjected to multiple scans for viruses/malware. We also keep comprehensive (Mrs. Lawrence has a different word for it) stats on all machines serviced.
Accordingly, here’s your “stat-of-the-day”: 87% of the machines we service, again, for various reasons, are found to be infected with viruses and/or malware. Remarkably, 89% of those infected machines have current/up-to-date antivirus packages installed, 7.2% have expired AV packages installed, 3% have multiple packages installed (which is like having none since they generally will conflict), and a scant 0.8% have none.
Inevitably, when a customer is advised, and shown the scan logs, much indignation ensues. Not a day goes by when I don’t hear questions like “How can that happen? I have <insert antivirus name here> installed.”. Or, “Why am I paying for <insert antivirus name here> if it can’t stop that stuff from getting into my computer?”.
Here’s a little more information to help answer those questions:
First and foremost, an antivirus program that can keep you 100% safe doesn’t exist. The day it’s introduced, the inventor will become an overnight bazillionaire. Unfortunately, within a week, some 15 year old kid will find a way through it and we’ll be back to square one.
Also, our comprehensive, OCD generated stats show that no AV package, whether paid or free, works better than any other.
Antivirus company geeks, for the most part, can’t be proactive. They can’t begin to guess what code the next idiot is going to write that will lock us up with pop-ups, false security alerts, and browser redirects. Truly, all they can do is react after those new attacks become known. That reaction comes in the form of updates, which you only receive if your AV subscription is current. Unfortunately, one of the things that viruses and malware attack first, are those AV packages. So, chances are that if you’re one of those poor slobs who got hit with a new attack, you’re not going to get the “fix” or update from your AV package anyway. Free AV programs do the same thing. So, at the risk of an occasional, annoying pop-up asking you to upgrade to their pay version, why should you pay for something that, in reality, can’t keep you safe?
I usually classify the “big guys” as Symantec (Norton), McAfee, Trend Micro & Kaspersky. All four have contractual agreements with computer manufacturers, so it’s likely that one of them will be pre-installed, as a trial version, on a new system. But what happens as your computer ages? Assuming you’ve kept the original AV, and dutifully paid your annual subscription fees, you’ll eventually run into an issue, whereby your AV program is the biggest cause of your machine slowing down. Each year, these companies continue to produce packages that require more resources to run, under the auspices of “keeping us safer”. If your older system doesn’t have those resources, the AV program will cause more harm than good.
As for the quote at the top of this post, imagine the Vice President for Information Security, at one of the biggest and oldest AV companies, actually making that admission! And he didn’t stop there. He also stated that AV “software in general misses 55% of attacks”.
Now, I would never advocate no AV software for the average PC owner. But should you really continue to spend your money on something with a 45% success rate when the free programs work just as well?
And speaking of money, VP Brian Dye, in the same interview, also said “We don’t think of antivirus as a moneymaker in any way”. To that I say…..
The bottom line is, it’s far more important how you use your computer, than what AV program you have installed. I’ve railed in previous posts about clicking on unknown links and downloading “free” crap that promises to “speed up your PC“, “update your drivers” or “clean your registry“. And know this….every time you download and install another 3rd party toolbar or browser add-on, somewhere a cute puppy cries.