Free AV and relying on the luck of the Irish

ESET Ireland’s Urban Schrott has blogged recently that “Research reveals nearly half of all Irish computers depend on free antivirus for protection”. That proportion isn’t in itself surprising: there are several options for anti-virus products that don’t cost anything for home users, and plenty of people who “believe that a free antivirus is equally effective in keeping their computers safe as a full security suite,” and more than a few irresponsible ‘security experts’ suggesting on the basis of spurious statistics and imperfect misunderstanding (hat tip to Kurt Wismer) of modern anti-malware technology that AV is not worth paying for.

Anti-malware statisticsUrban makes some similar points to those covered here by Righard Zwienenberg: Why Anti-Virus is not a waste of money. But Urban’s statistics (based on a poll commissioned by ESET Ireland) also throws up some interesting sidelights on consumer habits and attitudes that I’m sure are reflected in other parts of the world.

  • 45% of users use free AV, which is a lot better than being one of the 5% using no security software at all (as long as you’re using a competent mainstream program and you’re not one of the “3% minority … mad enough to use pirated antivirus.”
  • Still, it’s actually quite encouraging that a good proportion use a licensed security suite or a licensed AV product in combination with other security software. Not only because licence payments for anti-malware keep people like me in steak and Merlot, but because it shows that there are people with a healthy recognition that AV is not sufficient protection.

There’s also some demographic analysis indicating that women are more cautious (and likelier to pay for security software) than men, while the youngest age-group is also the most reckless. (This is well in line with other research from the same source.)

David Harley CITP FBCS CISSP
ESET Senior Research Fellow

Author David Harley, ESET

  • Phillip

    How many of the security suite actually had a current version and active updates? I’ve seen too many expired security suites because the user hadn’t got around to renewing. A free option is far better than this scenario.

    • Stephen Cobb

      Free is better than nothing, and we do worry about people who see a security product logo left on their desktop from a trial version and think they are protected, even though it has expired and they are unprotected.

  • Sagar Sehwag

    I Think even in more that 50% user will have free antivirus

    • Stephen Cobb

      The percentage varies by country I think. The oint is that many security experts question the value of free antivirus for protecting a company or any other situation where you need fast, prompt, customer support by phone.

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