2006-06-07

McAfee & Symantec: Sleep in the bed you made

Microsoft has officially announced their long-anticipated consumer software suite, OneCare. They believe they're "creating a new category," offering firewall, anti-spyware, and anti-virus all in one package. But this is only because the traditional Anti-Virus vendors have let their industry dominance go to their respective heads.

In reality, what has happened is McAfee and Symantec have simultaneously created artificial categories of security problems, and let their consumers down in those respective areas. Microsoft has stepped up to fill in the gap. Ten years ago, there were only computer viruses. Now, just look at the over-genrefication of the threats facing consumers: viruses, worms, bots, spyware, phishing, spear phishing (my personal favorite in the "ridiculous" category)... Perhaps this was done to increase paranoia, or "awareness" as vendors like to say, about the threats facing consumers. Whatever the reason, it's confused consumers, and given the traditional AV vendors more areas in which they can fail.

If Symantec and McAfee would have addressed all malware threats as a whole, like consumers expected them to do, they would not be in the situation they're in now. I can't count the number of times I've heard hapless users say "but how could I have spyware, I've got my anti-virus up to date?" The implied assumption on the user's part should be accurate. But thanks initially to the complacency of the AV industry leaders, and later to their greed (expecting users to pay for malware protection based on category: spyware is a different product), ordinary computer users are in a world of hurt.

The solution? Microsoft. Oh, what a twisted world we live in, when a vendor can convince users to pay for poorly-designed & written programs and then again to protect against attacks they've made possible. Never mind the fact that users are now having to trust their security to the very same people who've made their security weak in the first place. But given their traditional protections have been letting them down for years, consumers have no other choice. Almost like an American presidential election, the security industry has left the majority of the world to decide between "bad" and "worse." It didn't have to be this way.

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