June 16, 2003

Expect to see more Linux anti-virus products soon

- By Robin 'Roblimo' Miller -

On June 12 an article appeared on the PC Advisor Web site under the headline Microsoft murders Linux antivirus product in response to the Redmondites' purchase of Romanian company GeCAD software's antivirus technology. While Linux is impervious to Windows viruses, there's still a market for Linux antivirus products, especially at the corporate level. And plenty of other antivirus companies are eager to replace GeCAD's RAV on servers and desktops. In fact, Central Command, the maker of Vexira Antivirus, sees the GeCAD buyout as an excellent marketing opportunity.

Steven Sundermeier, Central Command product manager, says his company is not only not in danger of being bought by Microsoft, but that "Linux is an increasing part of our business. One of the niches of our business plan is the Linux market."

To help grow that niche, Central Command is offering RAV users who 'upgrade' to their Vexira product between now and September 30 a 25% discount.

Sundermeier says his company's biggest Linux antivirus market is ISPs. Another big market component, naturally, is companies that run Linux or Samba servers with Windows desktops attached to them.

And, he says, "We have a lot of inquiries come in from companies, even Fortune 100 companies, looking to move all their desktops to Linux because of licensing and such -- it's definitely a growing market."

F-Prot, antivirus giants Symantec and McAfee, and many others sell Linux antivirus software. And look! F-Prot (AKA Frisk Software International) has a special deal for RAV customers, too! So does BitDefender! And, no doubt, so do many others.

Fear of Microsoft may drive them all to Linux

Microsoft can pay for all the analysts' studies it wants saying how secure its products are, but the fact is that all the viruses and worms that come into my email box are passed on by Windows users, especially those who run Outlook or Outlook Express. So, naturally, the big money in virus protection software is in Windows products -- plus there's the little fact that Windows is still runs more than 90% of the world's computer desktops.

But now Microsoft is going to have its very own antivirus technology. It's likely that Microsoft's antivirus products will soon dominate the market because they will be the default with Windows, the same way Microsoft Word took over from... what was that program? Wordfectper or something? You know the one I mean. It used to be "the" corporate word processor, but now you hardly hear anything about it.

So while removal of a strong competitor in the Linux antivirus marketplace may give a short-term boost to Central Command and F-Prot and other smaller antivirus vendors, in the long run it may drive the antivirus biggies to jump on Linux in a big way as they find themselves driven out of the Windows antivirus market by Microsoft. Not that Microsoft will intentionally hurt them or anything...

Sundermeier points out that there are at least 100 known Linux viruses in the wild.

While none of the existing ones have made much of an impact, it is possible that one could come along that would do something mean to users' machines that doesn't take root access, like scramble some files in their /home partitions.

And don't forget the huge (and growing) number of Linux and Samba servers and all the Windows clients attached to them. They are going to need virus protection for many years to come, no matter how hard Microsoft works to make its products secure -- and to push its new antivirus products.

Non-commercial alternatives?

Even as commercial Linux antivirus competition heats up, there is that old Linux bugaboo (at least in the eyes of proprietary software vendors) lurking in the shadows: Free Software.

OpenAntiVirus, AMaViS, and Clam AntiVirus are three GPL antivirus projects, of varying maturity, that we found in less than three minutes.

There are certainly others (please post links to any you know about below), and more are likely to start if, as Sundermeier expects, the need for Linux virus protection grows in the future, as Linux inevitably becomes more popular on both corporate and personal desktops.


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