Antivirus Companies Fined for Autorenewing Subscriptions

It should come as no surprise that we're big believers in antivirus software and in keeping antivirus software updated; however, as any customer we've gone to bat for with the various vendors will testify, we're also consumer advocates.

Today, we got news that Symantec (makers of Norton Antivirus) and McAfee (makers of McAfee VirusScan Plus), two companies for which we have tremendous respect, have both reached a settlement with New York's Attorney General, Andrew M Cuomo, in a case about autorenewing antivirus subscriptions without the explicit consent of their respective customers.

Here are the details from the article about the antivirus renewal settlement on PCPro.co.uk:

"The investigators found that, 'information about automatic renewal charges was not clearly disclosed, but was instead hidden at the bottom of long web pages or in the fine print of license agreements.'

"The companies have now agreed to provide electronic notification both before and after the renewal of subscriptions.

"Customers will also be allowed to apply for refunds for up to 60 days after being charged."

Autorenewals themselves aren't necessarily a bad thing; in fact they can be quite beneficial to the consumer in that they obviate the need for a consumer to remember to renew antivirus subscriptions, thus keeping their computers safer.

The key thing here is that the consumer is well-aware of the renewals rather than being hit with them after the fact and only finding out about them on their credit card statements.

If you're uncertain what the terms of your antivirus software subscription renewal are, it's a good idea to find out when it is, and if you're due soon, remember to take a look at other antivirus options before yours expires.

After all, because the malware writers are getting smarter every day, the antivirus software has to get smarter, too, so a lot happens from year to the next with antivirus software.


Conficker Worm April 1 Activation Date

What's in store for us on April 1st 2009 with the Conficker worm?

There are a lot of educated guesses being floated, many of which are in this New York Times piece on the Conficker activation.

As the piece points out,

"It is possible to detect and remove Conficker using commercial antivirus tools offered by many companies. However, the most recent version of the program has a significantly improved capacity to remove commercial antivirus software and to turn off Microsoft’s security update service.
"It can also block communications with Web services provided by security companies to update their products. It even systematically opens holes in firewalls in an effort to improve its communication with other infected computers."

For more information on detecting it, here's the Microsoft Conficker detection tool and Norton instructions on how to manually remove Conficker.


Symantec / Norton 60-day intro on Gateway & eMachines

A little bit of news in the anti virus arena showed up today at CNNMoney. Looks like Symantec has struck a deal with Gateway / eMachines for a Symantec / Norton 360 trial on Gateway & eMachines PCs. [Editor's note: since the page on CNNMoney is no longer available, the inactive link has been pulled, too.

All-in-all, we're always glad to see any coverage on a new computer, we're just disappointed it was a chintzy 2-month trial. Given the number of new PCs that will no doubt end up under Ye Olde Christmas trees this year, that will mean a lot of computers start going unprotected towards the end of February 2009 as no doubt some people ignore the update nags and opt to go without antivirus protection.

We have a great deal of respect--a great deal--for Symantec as a company, but we think a 60-day trial is a little lean.

If someone opts for antivirus subscription renewal, that's great; if they decide to give something else a try, just so happens we know where they can look at and compare antivirus software. ;-)


Morro: Microsoft's free anti-virus / anti-malware

Our friends in Redmond, Washington, are at it again. :-)

Microsoft just announced their own free anti-malware / anti-virus software. cnet has full coverage of Microsoft's Morro anti-virus software and the general consensus amongst security industry companies seems to be a universal shrug.

Here's what reps from some of the leading companies had to say in interviews for the article:

Company   Quote
McAfee "With more malware attacks than ever before, we believe our advanced technology... will provide consumers the confidence to choose McAfee as their trusted adviser and expert in security."
Symantec "...it's simply not in Microsoft's DNA to provide high-quality, frequently updated security protection."
Kaspersky "[Microsoft has] continued to hold a very low market share in the consumer market, and we don't expect the exit of OneCare to change the playing field drastically."

Hmmm... doesn't sound like any are quaking at the thought of having Microsoft as a competitor in the antivirus software marketplace anytime soon.