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Privacy & Security
The real cost of free security software.

Internet users do love a good freebie, especially when it comes to things like anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and why shouldn't they, after all, its free, but I am sure you do not need reminding of the saying 'you don't get owt for nowt' (roughly translated to 'you do not get anything for nothing' for those who do not speak 'Yorkshire'), so what does the likes of Spybot Search and Destroy, AVG Free, Zone Alarm and others actually cost us?

The Answer is, a decreasing ability to defend against an increasing number of malicious software applications and secret install techniques.

Free software is as a result of either a generous company, a dedicated individual or a company's 'loss leader' hoping the free gift will result is sales of its other products. This has helped to develop a climate where Internet users expect that detection and removal of malicious software should be Free, that these companies who produce the software will be able to continue giving their products away and not only stay in business, but also invest resources into making their products even better. An unrealistic expectation in any language.

The fact is that malware detection and removal will never be as good as it could be because those who are knowledgeable enough to do something about it, do not have finances for the research and development, and nor will they ever until Internet users accept some responsibility and offer some much needed financial support to those who resolve the problems often caused by something they themselves have done (or not done),

Long gone are the days when the dangers of going online was from a few virus writers and crackers, whose motivation was 'underground bragging rights' measured by the amount of disruption they caused.

The enemy now is far more dangerous, they are backed by a multimillion pound industry whose motivation is 'to make money'. Make no mistake about it, this is a war over what you see on your PC screen, and the malware army is gaining in numbers, strength and power. This is hardly surprising as their opposition consists mainly of an industry that generates little money, backed up by a small army of volunteers working tirelessly on message boards and forums.

It would be the equivalent of highly trained, well equipped army backed with virtually unlimited finances for developing new techniques and weapons .... going into battle against a group of farmers armed with pitch forks. No matter how brave, dedicated or determined the defenders, they are never going to win.
However, if all the people who the farmers were protecting, bought their produce instead of expecting it free, they could replace their pitch forks with guns and tanks, and give the invading army a good run for their money.

The one thing this multi-million pound industry may not have contemplated when preparing their business plan, is their target audience improving their defensive capabilities. If internet users defences become so strong that distributors of malware find it difficult to make money, it would not be such an attractive proposition to them or their financial backers

Below is a typical internet users way of dealing with malicious software.
1) Download a few free scanners.
2) Blame the scanners when something arrives they cannot deal with.
3) Search the internet for a free solution, download a few more free scanners.
4) Ask a friend who 'knows a bit about computers', who in turn will search the internet for a free solution. Download a few more free scanners.
5) If there is no free solution, give up and re-install Windows regretting not backing up those important photos or begrudgingly take the PC to a repair shop and pay for it to be cleaned.

So, instead of complaining about your Free anti-virus software not being able to remove a stubborn virus, go and buy the full version, buy a tool from a reputable company that can do the job or make a donation to the maker of your free software and allow that company the finance to research, develop and improve its products. The results would be the company, and you, have a better chance of dealing with these parasites in the future.

This article is in no way intended to question the quality of the free software currently available, although there are some out there that are not worth the disk space they use, others are excellent applications, providing a high level of protection and detection/removal capabilities, but to question how much better could they be if we helped them for helping us, and the restrictions imposed on them by lack of finances were lifted.
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