Friday Rant - Why is most security software rubbish?

When I'm setting up a new Windows-based PC, the part that I dread is when it's time to install security software onto it. I just know that no matter how swift and powerful the system is, installing any kind of security suite onto it is going to kill performance. It's a lot like buying a BMW M5 and then murdering the performance by attaching it to a trailer fill of concrete.

OK, it's a Friday and that means one thing - Rant time!

When I'm setting up a new Windows-based PC, the part that I dread is when it's time to install security software onto it.  I just know that no matter how swift and powerful the system is, installing any kind of security suite onto it is going to kill performance.  It's a lot like buying a BMW M5 and then murdering the performance by attaching it to a trailer full of concrete. 

I know that we should all be thankful for being able to buy affordable protection against all but the most determined malware that's in the wild, but having spent nearly a decade feeling that I'd rather take my chances with the malware than install security software onto my systems.  I remember using a product called Dr Solomon's Anti Virus back in the 90s and being pretty pleased with that, but then the company was bought by McAfee and the product went down hill from there. 

Over the years I've got my hands on countless antivirus products and security suites and ultimately been disappointed by the lot.  They all seem to take your system's CPU cycles and RAM and suck it into a black hole.  But there's another problems.  Security products aimed at the consumer seem to all be aggressively competing for screen time.  Take, for example, Symantec's Norton AntiVirus.  Here's a program that's constantly in your face with one message or another.  I'm pretty sure that idea behind this is that you're less likely to renew a subscription if you've only noticed your AV product a couple of times, but if it's in your face constantly, then you're more aware of it and more likely to renew.  Doesn't work on me I can tell you.

Another problem is that security software is riddled with bugs and most companies just don't seem interested in fixing these problems.  My casebooks are filled with bugs and "features" that can be traced back to antivirus, antispam, and firewall software.  Some of these bugs are small and you can live with them, but others are big and very serious.  When you look at the bigger picture, it's hard to justify spending money on software to prevent malware getting onto your system when the software you're paying for makes your system suffer similar symptoms to those riddled with malware.

I've decided to take a two-pronged approach to dealing with this problem.  First off, I'm moving as much of my security workload from the desktop PCs and onto routers and file servers.   This way malware and spam is filtered out before reaching my main systems.  This system works well and there's no performance hit - seems like a bargain to me.  Sure, this can be a pain to administer at times but it's nowhere near as much of a hassle as having to admin security products on each of the systems - it's also cheaper!  Secondly, security company Sophos offer free antivirus for journalists and I've taken advantage of this for a few years now, installing it onto my notebooks.  To be honest, I'd have little hesitation recommending the Sophos product I'm using to others, but they don't make a consumer version, which is a shame.  The product works flawlessly and you only see it of hear from it when there's something important going on.  The performance hit is also pretty low, so that's another plus (especially desirable on notebooks).

My advice to anyone who is still considering buying a security software is to take advantage of trial versions and test thoroughly before parting with your cash - my experience (and the experiences of those who have written to me in the past) is that it's not as easy to get your money back if you run into problems down the line.

Thoughts?  And remember, since it's a Friday, you can vent your spleen about anything tech-related that annoys you!