McAfee admits proprietary process failure

The fact is that malware writers have been using a crippled version of an open source process for decades.

Anti-virus vendor McAfee admits it is falling behind because virus writers use open source methods.

Just a week ago McAfee said the number of Internet threats had doubled in just two years. And just a month before that McAfee blamed search engines for keeping malicious sites in their directories, adding to the problem.

The fact is that malware writers have been using a crippled version of an open source process for decades. I covered stories about pirate bulletin boards in the mid-1980s and little has changed. Virus writers exchange data. They work together.

But, as McAfee admits, the process is crippled. Malware authors have to make their "communities" difficult to reach, because malware is illegal.

This should be an opportunity for anti-malware forces, but they are instead locked into a proprietary mindset, one exemplified by McAfee itself.

There are open source antiviral efforts, but unfortunately most lack leadership, funding, and publicity. Openantivirus calls itself just "a set of tools to play with." Clamwin, an anti-viral distributed under the GPL, lacks reach.

Fact is, antivirals should be among the software categories most amenable to open source development. They're not sold, they're rented. The value lies in the updates, which carry an annual subscription fee.

I say there's a solution here. Communities can be activated, and an open source model can be created, that can succeed in the mass market. Now that McAfee has admitted its proprietary model is failing, maybe it will engage in some of this "out of the box" thinking.

And if it doesn't, maybe one of its competitors will.

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