A false sense of security

How do you know that your antivirus (AV) program is working? A report released by network security firm Promisec Inc. found that AV solutions from McAfee, Symantec and CA fail to disclose when they aren't functioning.

AV software was missing or disabled at more than 25 percent of 100,000 workstations at the companies polled, as estimated by Promisec. Network administrators didn't get software alerts in those cases.

The report described some reasons for the drop offs. Individual users disabled the programs, considering them a nuisance. In other situations, AV software was installed but not deployed.

The study's results pose a serious issue for the enterprise, according to Gary Morse, president of Razorpoint Security Technologies.

"You've got a CIO sleeping well at night, thinking everything is secure when nothing could be further from the truth," he said in a prepared statement. "New viruses come out every day, and it could be just a matter of time before a disaster occurs."

IT pros should ensure that a Web gateway or equivalent protection program is put in place. The gateway can filter the network's Internet traffic and shield PCs from malware.

Peter Firstbrook, a research director at Gartner, said that the problem with AV software is real but he believes that the 25 percent figure reported by Promisec is too high.

"It's possible for the antivirus software's agent to be corrupted so it doesn't report something's wrong," he said. "This percentage is inordinately high but either way enterprises shouldn't be relying on vendors to tell them workstations are up-to-date or corrupted. This is an internal thing."

About the Author

Jabulani Leffall is a journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times of London, Investor's Business Daily, The Economist and CFO Magazine, among others.

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