August 7, 2006 1:12 PM PDT

AOL offers free antivirus software

AOL has introduced free antivirus software that is likely to become the highest-profile alternative to security software you pay for.

Active Virus Shield offers basic protection against viruses, spyware and other malicious software, AOL said in a statement Monday. The product is available to all Internet users, not just to subscribers to AOL's Internet access service.

"Antivirus protection is too important to make people have to pay for it," an AOL representative told CNET News.com in an e-mail interview. "We want to make sure that everyone is protected from viruses and spyware, and we believe that making Active Virus Shield available for free will help make the Internet a safer place for all."

The protective tool is being delivered in partnership with Kaspersky Lab, a well-respected Russian antivirus software maker.

Active Virus Shield is not the only free antivirus product available, but it is likely to become the highest-profile alternative to for-pay products from vendors such as Symantec, McAfee and Microsoft. Other no-cost antivirus options are Grisoft's AVG Anti-Virus, Alwil Software's Avast, and ClamWin, which is based on the open-source Clam AntiVirus engine.

A study released in December by AOL and the National Cyber Security Alliance found that 56 percent of participants either had no antivirus protection or had not updated it within the previous week, which exposed them to serious security threats.

While AOL doesn't ask for money, Active Virus Shield users have to agree to let AOL and its partners deliver ads to them. "As a condition for your use of the software, you agree to receive promotions and periodic e-mail messages from us and our affiliates," according to the fine print in the license and user agreement of the software.

Active Virus Shield collects a host of information that may be used for marketing purposes, starting with the e-mail address required to download and run the product, according to the fine print. Other data collected include usage stats, responses to ads and details about the PC, according to the AOL agreement.

Alongside the antivirus software, AOL ships an Internet Explorer toolbar. The Microsoft toolbar includes an indicator for the PC's security status, a password manager, a pop-up blocker and a link to a Web site for more information on suspicious sites, the Web company said. It also includes an AOL Web search box, which can drive traffic to AOL Search.

Active Virus Shield rounds out AOL's menu of free security tools, which covers Active Security Monitor and the AOL Safety and Security Center, among others. The company is also developing a for-pay package called "AOL Total Care" that combines security and PC maintenance tools.

"We know that online security is not a 'one size fits all' proposition," the AOL representative said. "That's why we're offering a comprehensive line-up of safety and security products...The thought is that users will choose the solutions that best suit their needs."

Active Virus Shield works with the XP, NT, 2000, ME, and 98 editions of Windows. It requires Internet Explorer 5.5 or later to run, and about 50MB of spare hard disk space.

See more CNET content tagged:
America Online Inc., antivirus software, antivirus protection, Time Warner Inc., antivirus

11 comments

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Not really free
Headline is incorrect. Ad supported software is adware, not freeware.
Posted by delder (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
AOL does not say it is freeware
AOL does not say it is freeware!!!

Ofcourse it is adware just like

AOL instant messenger, windows live messenger, yahoo messenger etc, google desktop/side bar etc.
Posted by Tanjore (322 comments )
Link Flag
What the.....
Could they be anymore wrong with this statement, "Active Virus Shield is not the only free antivirus product available, but it is likely to become the highest-profile alternative to for-pay products from vendors such as Symantec, McAfee and Microsoft. Other no-cost antivirus options are Grisoft's AVG Anti-Virus and ClamWin, which is based on the open-source Clam AntiVirus engine."

Did Joris Evers get a kick back from AOL to say that. What about Avast. I visit many technology forums and when people talk about Free AntiVirus, there is usually only two versions they are talking about.....AVG or Avast.
Posted by Squashman2 (590 comments )
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Oops, forgot about Avast
Okay, it must have been a black out or something, but I completely forgot about Avast in my list of free antivirus products. Mea Culpa. I will update the story.

Still though, with the weight of AOL and Kaspersky behind it, I think Active Virus Shield will be a higher profile product than any of the current free AV offerings.

Joris, CNET
Posted by JorisEvers (48 comments )
Link Flag
Use Avast
Avast.com has really free anti-virus software with no adds for home use.
Posted by KTWinATL (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nothing with AOL is free.
Anything offered as free has strings attached... and with AOL... consider there to be more strings than usual.

Walt
Posted by wbenton (522 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A true face ...
It's amazing how they were able to put their words together to sound like as if they're some sort of a caring will-do-anything-to-make-the-world-safe pro-community kind of company, while their true face is about invading people's privacy, and make money out of it.
Posted by clee123 (2 comments )
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I already have my virus protection
Posted by antivirus-software (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
thank you
Posted by ,aru campbell (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If you're looking for a free antivirus program.

Why not check out PCTOOLS, because it's free and it rocks!

When you have some time, why not give it a spin.

To check it out visit <a href="http://www.pctools.com/free-antivirus/"> http://www.pctools.com/free-antivirus/ </a>

Elvis Locklier
Posted by pctools-free-anti-virus (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I fix computers for a living, and any real PC tech will tell you AOL is a virus. It's just concealed as a legitimate service and you actually have to pay for it. It's the biggest scam ever created. Most viruses sneak onto your computer free of charge and screw up your PC. AOL actually convinces people it's a good idea to pay them and they'll install "the virus" for you. Good luck getting it off your PC when you realize it screwed up your PC worse than most viruses. I have gotten it completely off about half a dozen PC's, and trust me, it took me days to figure it all out the 1st time. Now I can rid any PC of AOL in an hour or so, depending on how fast the PC is. The moral of the story is, never install any AOL product, not even Real Player, and I certainly wouldn't trust this new antivirus software they are promoting. CNET must of been paid for this ad. (it's an ad, not an article.). And I usually trust CNET. Use free antivirus like Microsoft Security Essentials along with MalwareBytes. Then use Glary Utilities and CCleaner for registry issues and you will never have any PC issues. As long as you get a pro to get that AOL crap off there 1st. Antivirus software doesn't recognize it as a virus, but it should.
Posted by fortysix (1 comment )
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