Research just published shows that more than half of IT users – 51 percent across more than 5,800 consumers and small-to-mid-sized businesses - are now paying for their antivirus software.
In its `IT Security Survey 2014' report, independent software lab AV-Comparatives says that the three most important aspects of a security protection product were: a low impact on system performance (69.1 percent), followed by good detection rates (62.4 percent) and good malware removal plus cleaning capabilities (60.7 percent).
Interestingly, of the 5,845 respondents to the global Internet survey, 51 percent said they were paying for their desktop and smartphone security, whilst 47 percent were going down the free software route. Perhaps worryingly, two percent of respondents said they did not use any form of AV software on their computing systems.
According to the survey, Avast is the most popular anti-malware vendor on the desktop in Europe, followed by Kaspersky Lab, ESET, Bitdefender, AVIRA, Symantec, Microsoft, Panda, Emisoft and F-Secure.
Delving into the report reveals that almost 80 percent of users said they felt well protected from security threats over the last six months, with only a small number reporting that their security product had failed to protect them against malware infection in this period.
Over a third (38 percent) said that their security product had blocked malware within the last week how easy it is to encounter a threat.
SCMagazineUK.com approached several vendors for comments on the report, but their spokespeople all declined, citing sensitivity issues on the balance between paid and free versions of their software.
In the past, this writer has found the general response favourable towards free software.
In late 2010, for example, Astaro, the IT security appliance specialist, released its first free package - Essential Firewall - which, according to Gert Hansen, the firm's chief security architect, was intended to give potential pay-for customers a taste of the firm's technology on a freeware basis. Hansen had concluded that trialware does not work well in the company marketplace as firms are generally wary of replacing existing security systems with new products.
“By offering a version of our software for free, we generate a higher profile in the industry," he said at the time, "with the result that users say: `Ah yes, I know your product, I've used it at home' or is happy to try the software on a number of his or her PCs before committing to an appliance.”
In addition, freeware applications have a much wider potential user base than pay-for software, which gives vendors access to a far larger pool of users whose PCs feed data on the latest IT security threats to the company's servers.
Phillipe Courtot, chairman of cloud security specialist Qualys, calls this data pool `cloud intelligence' and argues that it is a very precious commodity for IT security vendors.
This is the reason, he says, why a growing number of companies – both inside and outside of the IT security arena – are moving to what he called the `freemium' business model.
Courtot says that Freemium – a hybrid of free and premium – is the model that Google has adopted with its Android operating system, which it licences on a wide scale to a growing number of smartphone and tablet computer vendors.
This freemium business model has, says Courtot, allowed Google to turn a modest profit, but more importantly, the operating system, he adds, is already in active use on many hundreds of millions of devices.