Avira: 25 pct of PC users disable antivirus software

A new survey from German antivirus and computer security firm Avira finds that about one in four PC users admit to turning off virus protection on their PCs because they thought the programs were slowing down their computers. Furthermore, more than three out of five (62.8 percent) have tried multiple computer security products in the span of a year on the same computer, hoping to find one they like, and nearly one in eight (12 percent) have considered getting off the Internet altogether for safety reasons.

“The scary take-away from this survey is that 25 percent of the respondents admitted to just turning off their security products because they feel that it hurt the performance of the machine,” said Avira’s Sorin Mustaca. “That’s not a good idea because such a practice leaves the computer totally exposed to the even simplest of viruses, allowing the bad guys to include it in a botnet used to distribute malware and phishing.”

Avira says the survey questions were put to more than 100 million Avira customers around the world during November 2010, although the results are based on 9,091 respondents. Avira says the margin of error for the responses is between 0.28 and 1 percent…although, if the respondents were self-selecting, it’s difficult to know how well the results apply to general computer users, or even to Avira’s customers. (For instance, most Mac OS X users don’t use any antivirus software at all, since the universe of malware targeting the Mac is a tiny fraction of that targeting Windows—for now, anyway.)

Avira is interpreting the results as a sign that antivirus vendors need to take special care not to impact overall system performance—even if that means staying out of users faces, drawing less attention to themselves, or even providing less protection. “It is better to have minimal protection which goes unnoticed than protection with all whistles and bells which the user deactivates in order to be able to use his computer,” Mustaca noted.

If Avira’s survey results can be generalized to a broad group of Windows users, it is also interesting that the majority of Windows users try multiple antivirus and security products on the same computer during the course of a year, indicating that the majority of people who are interested in keeping their PCs secure are dissatisfied with the antivirus products they’re using. Avira’s results don’t go into respondents’ reasons for switching security products: system performance could certainly be one, but factors like pricing play a role.

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