RealTime IT News

Users Pass on Updating Antivirus Software

A survey by Harris Interactive and sponsored by antivirus developer Eset Software found that while most home computer owners have antivirus software, the majority are not updating it because the update process is too clumsy and intrusive.

In a survey of 2,097 adult computer users ages 18 or older, 88 percent had an antivirus program, but 65 percent have postponed updating their antivirus program. The end result was 42 percent of the surveyed had suffered some form of malware infection as a result.

The leading reason people didn't upgrade was intrusion, with 38 percent of respondents saying was it was too disruptive to what they were doing on the computer. Another 32 percent said they thought it was something that could wait, 27 percent said they thought it would take too long, while 14 percent said they weren’t sure how to update the antivirus program.

"Andreas Marx (CEO of AV-test.org) said the industry is letting folks down. Why should it be such a pain? But it comes back to a software design and usability issue," said Rick Moy, vice president of marketing for Eset.

Part of the problem is that some antivirus programs pop up a window prompting the user to do the update, and clicking no is almost an automatic reflex for some users, Moy said. Others said the downloads took too long and didn't want to be bothered. Manual downloads and required reboots do not sit well with people who are in the middle of work.

"In general, people don't buy their computers to think a lot about security," said Moy. "If you had the experience once and it took a long time and you had to reboot, then it sets the tone for your future."

Dan Blum, research director for The Burton Group who follows antivirus software, doesn't think antivirus software is that poorly written, but concedes they can be slow.

"Overall, I just don't think that the current versions are all that challenged with updating," he said. "Most of the antivirus products can perform updates reasonably well. There's problems with performance on some machines, scanning slows the machine down. I would also say that overall, they are somewhat disruptive."

Still, some burden has to be placed on the user to not whine about doing what needs to be done. Saying it's too much trouble to update your antivirus software and definitions is the electronic equivalent to refusing to wear a condom.

"If you're talking about solving the problem, you've got to tell people to be smarter about it," said Moy. "The digital world is every bit as dangerous as the real world. People are behaving somewhat recklessly and don't understand how bad it is out there."

Blum agrees. "People should be able to get a computer and have it be protected without a lot of involvement from them," he said. "But in the real world today, you have to have some smarts. You can't just walk through the streets of the Internet looking at the ground, blissfully unaware of the dangers around you. It's a bad neighborhood."