Users vs. Antivirus: Another struggle for our confidential information

Nowadays, more than ever before, it seems that common Internet and PC users totally lost their fight for confidentiality of their personal information. After finding out that we are being watched by the tech giant Google, many mobile providers and applications, or American NSA, there is another Big Brother on the cyber playground – your antivirus program. Indeed, the same software which is meant to protect you from data loss and leak can send your private files to the manufacturer without an alert.

A recent research made by an antivirus testing and comparison organization AV-Comparatives revealed that many popular computer security companies can collect your sensitive personal documents as well as a list of web pages you have visited. How is that possible? If the antivirus software finds a suspicious document, it will send the document to the antivirus company. It is reasoned and legitimate that some details of malware found on the computer have to be sent to the manufacturer in order to protect the user effectively. However, many products transmit all the visited URLs and web addresses, no matter if they are malicious or not, and some programs even transmit the computer’s name, local IP address, language, running processes and Windows user name to the producer! The sad fact is that many of the surveyed antivirus companies were not willing to say what type of data their products send to them.

The study included antivirus products by AhnLab, Avast, AVG, AVIRA, Bitdefender, BullGuard, Emsisoft, eScan, ESET, Fortinet, F-Secure, G DATA, Kaspersky Lab, McAfee, Microsoft, Panda, Sophos, Symantec, Trend Micro, Vipre, and Webroot. Not all of them can be charged with sneaky acquiring of various personal files of their customers, but as a matter of fact, five of the fore mentioned companies confessed to transmitting non-executable files (for example, a business document in Word format that the antivirus finds suspicious) from users’ computers. Another seven companies refused to answer the question, so it can probably assumed that these products transmit such documents too. And what’s more, some of them do not allow customers to opt out of sending these non-executable files at all. We don’t even know that this is happening and we cannot do anything about it.

So, do we have any possibilities and alternatives? Or are we simply doomed to let another Big Brother into our lives? The advice says “Choose, choose and choose!” There are still some companies that do not have any pretensions to get as much of your personal data as possible, such as TrustPort. Antivirus programs by TrustPort do not need to track their users to offer the most reliable solution among others. According to the latest Virus Bulletin comparative, TrustPort antivirus has the best malware detection in the world. So never forget to choose your antivirus software wisely.

Source: AV-Comparative: Data transmission in Internet security products report (May 8, 2014).

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