Barclays offers free F-Secure AV software

The bank has signed a deal with the antivirus vendor to provide protection to online customers
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Barclays Bank has announced it will offer F-Secure's basic antivirus package to online banking customers for two years, starting on Friday.

Barclays will offer F-Secure Anti-Virus to its 1.6 million active online customers, and has actually bought more than 1.6 million.

"We had to be flexible enough to offer all our customers protection, so we have ample licenses," said Barnaby Davis, director of electronic banking at Barclays. "Quite a few people will sign up, so we're going to need a fair few up our sleeves," Davis told ZDNet UK.

The basic package will include antivirus, anti-spyware, and anti-rootkit protection. It is billed as a free download, but users can choose to pay for an installation CD, and will also be charged for any customer support calls to F-Secure.

"It's a two-year agreement to provide cover and continuous [Barclays] customer support," Richard Hales, country manager at F-Secure UK, told ZDNet UK. "Although if people signed up today then left Barclays they would still get a year's support. Hopefully that won't happen too much," added Hales.

A two-year F-Secure subscription currently costs more than £45.

Hales said that as well as the commercial opportunity of selling the licences to Barclays, F-Secure is hoping that consumers will decide to upgrade to a service with a personal firewall, parental controls and spam filter.

"If people upgrade, it's another income opportunity for us," said Hales.

Barclays first endorsed F-Secure products in January, with the launch of a 30-day trial of F-Secure Internet Security and the option to purchase the product on the Barclays Web site, for which Barclays entered into a licensing agreement with F-Secure.

"We offered to subsidise F-Secure software because we believe it gives the best balance for functionality and support, plus continual background monitoring," said Davis.

Barclays has offered anti-virus products in the past to its online customers, but believes this is the first time any bank has offered "free" antivirus software. The banking giant expects major competitors to follow suit.

"I would expect [major banks] to look at this and reconsider their positions. To some extent I hope they do," said Davis. "As banks become increasingly impregnable, an easier route for criminals is to get credentials from customers, [especially] if they are totally unaware they've downloaded a keylogger. Let's help customers with the invisible threat."

Barclays chose F-Secure after putting the contract out to tender, and "went to a number of suppliers". F-Secure claims that several major antivirus companies competed for the contract.

Barclays says it chose to give the contract to F-Secure primarily due to its response times in pushing out signatures for new malware, and because of "high levels of customer service and support".

A factor in Barclays' eventual decision was also that the bank "didn't want a reason not to take up the offer to be that customers didn't recognise the brand we were offering," said Davis.

After the contract ends, Barclays will either build antivirus into its service as an integral feature, or they "won't need to because security will be an integral part of the browsing or ISP experience," said Davis.

Some ISPs, such as BT, already offer some customer security as part of their broadband package.

As an additional safety feature, Barclays will also offer an SMS texting service that will notify customers of online banking activity.

The package will be available from Friday to Barclays' online customers. Customers will receive a personal key code through the post within the next two weeks. Those customers who feel they need protection immediately can download a 30-day trial version of Internet Security from Barclays, or can ring F-Secure customer support.

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