Network Security

Debate: Free anti-virus software is as effective in protecting users as a paid solution


Melih Abdulhayoglu, CEO and chief security architect, Comodo

In many cases, free anti-virus software can be a better defense against new viruses. Virus detection and removal rates are so similar across anti-virus vendors that they provide no justification for differentiation between paid and free products. The debate needs to move beyond this artificial measurement of security onto how well a product protects the user against brand-new, unknown threats. This is not a question of whether it is free or paid – it is a question of whether the software has been architected correctly.

A truly secure solution needs to combine traditional anti-virus with a tested and proven ‘default deny' system of protection. Technology such as “automatic sandboxing” and real-time behavior analysis of unknown files can contain unknown executables where they cannot cause any harm in a virtual environment until automatic or manual behavior analysis can classify them as safe or malicious.

The real battle is not against the known threats; it is about the ability to protect the user from the unknown threats.


Dan Nadir, director of product management, Norton products, Symantec

Free anti-virus software is not as effective in protecting users as a paid solution. Using free AV can be likened to wearing a light windbreaker in a snowstorm. Security today is not just about viruses. Today's malware is stealthy and designed to steal your personal information, which can result in devastating financial loss. In this environment, consumers simply can't afford a “good enough” mentality. Let's get real: Freeware providers offer incomplete solutions designed to upsell you to their paid offerings. Ever do any online shopping or banking? You won't be protected by free versions.

Considerable R&D is required to deliver the technologies that go beyond traditional AV techniques. Paid solutions deliver full protection and can result in protection from mutating threats that would completely evade conventional security.

Paying a fair price for security provides the best overall value – free 24/7 support, tune-up, backup and the most complete defense available.

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