PCR talks to the experts about recent changes in the security sector

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With the number of online threats multiplying each day, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep PCs safe from viruses, spyware, worms, trojans and the like. And as malware becomes more sophisticated, so must security software. According to the vendors, consumers are increasingly looking for packages that provide all-in-one protection, without slowing down their machines.

“They are demanding that software is intuitive, easy to install, fast, light and protects against all threats from phishing attacks to viruses on a USB key,” says Con Mallon, EMEA product marketing director for Symantec.

Petter Lautin, managing director of Panda Security UK and Ireland, echoes this view: “Consumers are expecting intuitive security software to provide protection without requiring high levels of user decision making or impacting on their computer performance.” He adds that many security software vendors, in an attempt to lessen the burden on the host PC, are choosing to move threat detection into ‘the cloud’ – an observation Paul Lipman, senior vice president and general manager of consumer business at Webroot, agrees with.

He explains: “This is being driven by three factors: the need for better performance – moving processing to the cloud frees up consumers’ PC resources; the need for better protection – multiple technologies can be used in the cloud, which provides instant updates and thus better security; and the need for a web-based solution to manage consumers’ security in today’s multi-device environment.”

Cloud-based solutions are just one of the new technologies that have been developed in order to keep up with cyber criminals. Some vendors, including Symantec and Kaspersky, have created systems that collate information from users’ computers, keeping the software up-to-date with potential threats.

“If you are signed up to the community and you detect something on your machine that is deemed by our software to be a malicious application – a trojan, a virus, whatever it may be – it then communicates via a central hub with all the other machines signed up to the network neighbourhood to tell them to protect themselves from the same program,” says Simon Geach, consumer sales director of Kaspersky Lab UK.

According to Lipman, the purpose of security software has changed in recent times. “The security landscape has evolved from one focused on protecting against spam, spyware and viruses to one that’s also focused on the broader challenges of privacy and identity protection,” he says. “We’re now sharing more sensitive information over the internet for activities like banking, shopping and social networking, and we’re doing this across multiple devices. The volume of personal information being shared through these channels provides a huge target for financially motivated cyber criminals who churn out increasingly sophisticated security threats every day.”

Alan Case, BullGuard’s UK sales director, agrees: “Like their offline counterparts, online criminals follow the crowd. So if we all become obsessed with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and at the same time all start surfing away on our netbooks and smartphones, that is where the battles will be fought, lost and won.”

Despite the fact that malware is becoming more and more sophisticated, some bargain-hunting consumers have been opting for free security software in an attempt to save a few

“As things get harder economically for people, they will look for cheaper or free products, but they’re free for a reason,” Geach says. “There’s only a certain amount of protection those types of products will afford you and people need to be more aware that they have to pay to get that better level of protection, in order to ensure they’re covered 99 per cent of the time.”

Mallon does not think paid-for packages risk being put out of business by their free counterparts just yet. “Consumers want the safeguard of professional and free support, which many of the free anti-virus software providers don’t offer,” he says.

And distributors are still expecting a high demand for security products in the months leading up to Christmas, “especially to accompany sales of new hardware”, says Gem’s head of marketing Neil Handa.

“With strong sales promotions on offer and the ability to attach to strong hardware sales, Christmas is a key time for security software and consistently performs as one of the highest sales periods of the year,” confirms Jo Kemp, head of sales at Koch Media.

“Most of the major software manufacturers have launched new versions of their software by now so there will be a strong demand from consumers in the coming months,” Handa concludes. “Security software offers retailers good margin opportunities, whether they are bundling the software with new equipment or as a standalone sale.”

BullGuard Antivirus for Portables
Distributor: Gem Distribution
SRP: £19.95

This anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-phishing product is optimised for netbooks and light notebooks, with automatic updates every two hours. The package comes on a USB memory stick to aid installation, which can also be used for data storage and transfer.

Panda 2010 Range
Distributors: Blue Solutions, Micro-P, Northamber
SRP: Antivirus for Netbooks: £29.99 (one 12-month licence), Antivirus Pro £39.99, Internet Security: £49.99, Global Protection: £59.99 – each for three 12-month licences, promotional prices available

These four packages include new detection technologies such as cloud- cased remote heuristic scanning. Antivirus Prois Panda’s entry level product, while Internet Securityand Global Protection provide more advanced protection such as anti-spam and online content filtering, with the latter offering 5GB of online back-up to protect files.

AVG Internet Security 8.5
Distributors: Koch Media, Micro-P
SRP: £38.33 for a one-year licence

The latest version of Internet Security features new identity theft protection, which protects personal data such as online banking and credit card details. LinkScanner ensures links on search engines and web pages are safe, minimising the risk of accidentally visiting an infected site. The package also checks all files, downloads, online transactions, emails, instant messages and P2P communications.

ESET Smart Security Version 4 (Business Edition)
Distributor: Direct
SRP: £113.85 + VAT for a one-year, five user licence

ESET’s new Smart Security package includes a self-defence system, which blocks attempts to delete, rename or corrupt ESET drivers and processes. Other new features include warnings about critical Windows updates that have not installed and may leave machines open to attack, and the ability to block removable media such as USB keys and CD drives.

BitDefender 2010 Range
Distributors: Interactive Ideas, Security IP, CMI Labs
SRP: Antivirus: £19.95, Internet Security: £29.95, Total Security: £44.95 – each for up to three users

BitDefender’s three packages feature optimised scanning, which speeds up the process by skipping over files known to be safe. Internet Security and Total Security provide options for parents to block inappropriate websites and limit the amount of time children are able to access games and the internet. Total Security also contains a file shredder, which permanently erases sensitive files from the computer’s hard drive.

Kaspersky 2010 Range
Distributors: Koch Media, Enta, Gem Distribution, Ingram Micro, Spire Technology
SRP: Internet Security: £49.99 (three users) or £39.99 (one user), Anti-Virus: £39.99 (three users) or £29.99 (one user)

Anti-Virus 2010and Internet Security 2010use a ‘Host-based Intrusion Prevention System’ to assign a security rating to previously unknown malware, while the Kaspersky Security Network uses information from its subscribers to reduce response times to new threats. Other new features include a special mode for gaming, which delays alerts, updates and scans while games are being played.

Norton 2010 Range
Distributors: Computer 2000, Ingram Micro, Bell Micro, Gem Distribution
SRP: Internet Security: £49.99, AntiVirus: £39.99

Norton’s latest range contains the vendor’s new Quorum technology, which identifies new threats by creating a ‘reputation’ for files and applications based on collated information such as age, download source, digital signature and prevalence. Users are kept informed of the security and performance impact of files and applications, including a list of what’s been downloaded when, and details of any threats encountered.

Webroot Internet Security Essentials
Distributor: Gem Distribution
SRP: £39.95

Webroot’s latest product contains integrated online backup and restore capabilities to protect files against virtually any kind of damage or loss, such as hard drive crashes, physical damage and accidental deletion. One GB of free online backup space is included as standard. Additional features include email monitoring, automatic updates and a gamer mode to keep the PC protected without interrupting games or movies.

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security
Distributor: Open
SRP: £48.93

With ZoneAlarm’s new hard drive encryption, data is jumbled up so that it cannot be deciphered unless a password is entered, keeping personal data private in case of loss or theft. Meanwhile, the improved firewall monitors changes within the computer to spot new threats that bypass traditional anti-virus software.

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