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Expired Antivirus Software No Better Than No Antivirus Software, Study Shows

Antivirus software with anti-malware capabilities are always a pretty good idea to get for a PC, even for a Mac, if for only the malware protection. But, if it expires, you will be in a bad place.

Dark Reading is reporting that for PCs, which will be the focus of this article, using the one-month free antivirus and anti-malware program, then not renewing it, can cause as much harm to you computer and information than having no antivirus software on your computer.

Microsoft security researchers have been studying to see if there is any correlation between malware infection rates on PCs and the quality of the antivirus/anti-malware protection on Windows 8 endpoints. The research has shown that almost 10 percent of Windows 8 users have anti-malware programs whose trial version has expired. This was found to be the number one reason why PCs get infected most often.

While it’s true that most antivirus/anti-malware programs will continue to search for issues, the programs are not receiving vital updates, giving the program necessary information about newer viruses and malware, while keeping an updated catalog of viruses and malware. In fact, PCs with expired antivirus programs are just as likely to get infected as computers that have no protection at all. Windows 8 computers with expired antivirus programs are also four times more likely to get an infection than a computer that has a current, updated antivirus program.

Tom’s Guide is reporting that the study, labelled Security Intelligence Report 17, released November 18, was performed on non-domain computers (all personal and isolated small business computers). The study found, to no one’s surprise, that most times the expired antivirus/anti-malware is put on a newly purchased computer, then left to expire without any action from the computer owner. Also not surprising is that January was the busiest month for trial activations, due to computer sales during the holidays.

The study did say there were two antivirus vendors that figured prominently in the study, accounting for 88 percent of expired software. Microsoft declined to name the two vendors in their survey.

One finding the survey revealed is that even if a customer were to use and let a trial period expire, getting that software sometimes after will still be missing valuable data to protect the computer.

The only good protection for your computer is basic common sense. Get a good antivirus/anti-malware program that you’re comfortable with, make sure you run your updates to keep your program current, and most importantly, back up the data on your hard drive. Sometimes, even the best antivirus/anti-malware will slip up and harm your computer. With a proper, current backup, if anything happens, you can replace the data on a new hard drive from the backup. It’s as if you didn’t lose anything.

[Image courtesy of Gadget Cage]