Are Free Antivirus Software Equally Good as Paid Antivirus
By on July 27th, 2009

There has always been a heated debate between the advocates of Free Antivirus Software and the promoters of Paid security software products. The first category of people try to criticize the security software companies like Symantec and McAfee for charging the computer users for something which is freely available from developers like Avira and AVG totally free of cost.

On the other hand, the paid security software vendors say that it is futile and dangerous to expect the free antivirus software makers to put in that much amount of effort and time, which is actually required to combat today’s internet threats. It requires lots of money and time to do the research, and if the antivirus developers do not get the money back and earn profit, you cannot expect them to operate on a serious note.

My own argument is in favor of the the Paid Security Software vendors. And I also want to add here that most of the free antivirus software are actually a stripped down version of their full-blown software, which is often given as an upsell product for promoting their paid version. If these Free Antivirus Software companies start making their Free products equally potent as their main paid product, who will go and buy their full-blown product? It is separate issue that recently launched Microsoft Security Essentials does not fit in this category and looks to be an independent effort to clean the Windows ecosystem, in general.

David Hall, Symantec’s Product Manager Asia-Pacific Consumer Products and Solutions, has recently raised a powerful voice in support of paid antivirus software and blasted that efficacy and utility of free security software. It sure looks like an aggressive marketing attempt in support of his own employers at a crucial time when Microsoft Security Essential is gearing to offer a serious threat to the profit margins of established security vendors, but still, David has a point worth mentioning.

What do you think on this issue? Are free antivirus software equally good as paid antivirus?

[This post is from Silki Garg. Do not forget to check out her latest posts on Portable Antivirus and Windows Security]

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Author: Silki
I am Silki Garg, a telecom professional from the holy city of Varanasi in India. I have a natural crush for Technology and having bitten by Blogging Bug. I usually have a contrarian approach.

Silki has written and can be contacted at silki@techie-buzz.com.
  • Daniel Schrader

    I hope you don’t mind another Symantec voice in the discussion, but my take is a bit different than David Hall’s. Let another Symantec person weigh in . . .

    The point isn’t that Microsoft has a bad virus scanner, the point is that all Microsoft’s product will do is scan static files for viruses. This is a single layer, all or nothing defense.

    Every security professional has heard the mantra, “layered security”. For the home user that should mean (in order):

    outside the box:
    Security in the router
    Encrypted wireless

    in the box
    Search security – mark up search results so you don’t accidentally go to infected/malicious web sites.
    Phishing protection – identify and block phishing sites – and do it better than the weak protection offered by IE or Firefox (this can be a thread unto itself)
    Browser security – analyze the code in the page before the browser renders it. The better security suites do this.
    IPS – look at network traffic for signatures of attacks on known vulnerabilities – so look for traffic that targets the latest Adobe or Apple or other 3rd party vulnerability instead of looking for signatures of exploits
    Firewall (intelligent, 2-way, doesn’t ask the user to make security decisions without giving them the info to do so)
    Vulnerability assessment – (are we all patched?)
    Password protection
    Tamper protection – ensure the security settings of both the OS and the security software aren’t changed by malware/intruder
    Updates at least hourly – or cloud scanning model – after all we are getting up to 20,000 new viruses a day
    Effective malware scanning

    What does Microsoft security essentials offer – only the bottom layer. Will most users realize that? No. Maybe they will turn on Windows firewall, maybe they will use their browser’s phishing features – maybe. Most don’t know those even exist.

    So yes, free scanners can give a false sense of security.

    Meanwhile all this technology requires an investment – a big investment from the developers. Will security firms keep innovating and investing with Microsoft giving away the farm? Not is there is no profit in it.

    Finally, do we really want a security mono culture from Microsoft? Has a near monopoly in OS and a virtual monopoly in office apps been great for anyone other then Microsoft? No. Windows is a remarkably reach and easy target for hackers, the quality of MS Office is poor (tell me yours hasn’t crashed this week) and Windows 7 is windows dressing on Vista – which was a disaster.

  • Silki

    Hi Daniel,
    Your comments are welcome. I am not a huge fan of Microsoft products, but it is a fact that MS still remains at an unbeatable position in OS and Office Apps, despite lots of criticism.
    And it is also a fact that in such a competitive environment, there will always be criticism in the air, howsoever good product you make.
    Regarding the false sense of security, I must say that despite huge investment, marketing, awareness programs and all such stuffs, all security vendors have not been able to achieve a cap on the growth of malware and internet threats. There are lots of computers, which still run unprotected, and do not have even the basic layer of defense.
    If Microsoft, given its vast reach, is able to provide even a basic layer of security to the masses, it will surely be a great achievement. I am not saying that this is GOING to happen, only time will tell this. But Microsoft, certainly has shown the possibility.

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  • latarsha murray

    this is tweetie i hard this was the best antivirus to get and its free for six months

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000599024756 Soham Malakar

    Have a look at my review on kaspersky Internet Security 2012 in my blog and then decide which antivirus you want to chose.My advise is to delve into the features of antivirus before you buy it.I will be glad if it helps you.
    http://bloggersoham.blogspot.in/2012/03/soft-review-kaspersky-internet-security.html

    Thank you.. :)

 
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