Antivirus Software: Doomed to Failure?
Antivirus software is “doomed to failure” according to Symantec, maker of Norton Internet Security. That's pretty alarming. It sounds like we’re losing the war against malware… barbarians have breached the castle walls and the best we can do is fight them from room to room. But the truth is something quite different. Read on!
Is Antivirus Software A Lost Cause?
A recent Wall Street Journal article quotes a senior Symantec exec, Brian Dye, saying antivirus “is dead” and cites his estimate that antivirus software currently catches only about 45 percent of cyberattacks.
Symantec is retreating from the consumer antivirus defense market that it helped to pioneer, focusing instead on what to do about malware that has already breached the defenses of a computer or network. It's a shift from "protect" to a "detect and respond" mentality. That sounds like an admission of defeat to me.
Symantec and other commercial cybersecurity firms are, indeed, retreating from a battle they can’t win: the battle against free antivirus software such as AVG, Avast!, MalwareBytes Anti-Malware, and many others that I have described over the years. (See my related article Free Anti-Virus Programs.)
“We don’t think antivirus is a moneymaker in any way,” is the rest of Mr. Dye’s “antivirus is dead” statement. It’s not that antivirus software doesn’t work, it’s just that there’s not enough profit in consumer antivirus to satisfy Symantec. Therefore large corporations like Symantec and McAfee are going where smaller cybersecurity companies can’t play: the lucrative “enterprise consulting” business, where numbers of employees matter.
That will mean less emphasis on the consumer side. The average household isn’t going to hire a team of MBAs with computer science degrees to figure out which neighbor is stealing its WiFi.
Consumers Have Choices Going Forward
Symantec, McAfee, et. al., are not going to drop their consumer-grade antivirus products, but those products are likely to get few development dollars in the future. The performance gap between them and the free products from smaller firms is likely to grow. And that can only diminish the value of those paid security tools as time goes on.
The best free antivirus programs stop upwards of 99 percent of infections before they can take root, not just 45 percent. (See Best Antivirus Programs for 2014.)
“Cyberattacks” include more than just viruses. Phishing for victims who willingly give up their sensitive information to hackers disguised as Nigerian princes, trusted business partners, or long-lost friends is another form of cyberattack. So is old-fashioned breaking-and-entering of a computer network by brute force or clever guessing of the correct password. It’s viruses that are becoming obsolete, not antivirus software.
There are two lessons for consumers in all of this. First, ditch the corporate cybersecurity trialware that comes with a new computer. It's clear that Symantec, McAfee, et. al., are are focusing more on deep-pocketed business customers, and less on consumers’ security needs.
Second, check out some of the excellent free Internet security tools. My article Should You BUY Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware Software? has some tips on mixing up your own anti-malware cocktail, and which ones I use in my own personal security arsenal.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 8 May 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Antivirus Software: Doomed to Failure? (Posted: 8 May 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved