Graham Cluley reports a significant move by Sophos (one of the earliest entrants in the Mac AV field): the company is now making its Mac product available for free for home use. Actually, this makes perfect sense for Sophos, which has traditionally focused on the business sector, anyway. In fact, most mainstream companies with a Mac product do so for completeness of coverage, rather than aiming for the consumer market.
So, before we (or at any rate my colleague Mr. Harley) get a barrage of enquiries about Sophos’s death blow to the Mac AV industry, let me say that I don’t think this will eat very much into the profit margins of many companies, any more than the availability of free anti-malware for Windows has killed the rest of the industry. In fact, less, since most Mac users don’t see an urgent need for AV on OS X systems. Though there are signs that this might be changing.
At any rate, Graham’s blog reports that of 640 responses to a recent Sophos poll, only 5% believed that there aren’t more attacks on Mac users on the way. 36% believed that the platform would be attacked more often in the future, while 59% believed that it would be attacked more often, but less so than Windows. Which strikes us as being entirely rational. Though of course, it’s worth remembering that Mac users who respond to Sophos surveys are probably not very typical of the more general population of Mac home users, most of whom probably don’t spend much time on security sites.
John Leyden has also commented on the issue for The Register. While I’m generally in agreement, David Harley points out that what has changed here is not that there was no free AV for Mac users previously.
“There’s always been free AV for Macs (and one of those packages, the very useful Disinfectant, was actually the basis for McAfee’s package for a while, until the company decided to focus on developing Virex, which it acquired along with Dr. Solomon’s). The problem is that apart from beta or trial versions of commercial software, there hasn’t for many years been a free package that covers the whole range of malware that might affect Mac users in some sense (and some is so inadequate as to be dangerous!).”
If even a few people now install Sophos who wouldn’t be prepared to buy commercial-grade AV, that seems to me a fair trade-off against the minor prospective damage to industry revenue streams. I’m not sure whether David Harley agrees on that, though: after all, he does work with ESET, which is a competitor to Sophos.