AV Software – An Exposé

Part 1 of 3
AV Software – An Exposé

Software is involved in every aspect of my existence. It does everything from protecting my bank account to controlling my X Rays. How do I know I can trust it. Who makes it and where is it maintained? Take a second to think about activities in your life and you’ll realize how much you are dependent on software.

It hasn’t been that long ago that the infamous Therac-25 incident took place killing six people with massive over doses of radiation. Unsuspecting patients came for treatment and ended up dying from radiation poisoning. The problem was due to poorly written software. Who writes all the programs that control my life? Where are these people and how do I know I can trust them?

The biggest worry I have on a daily basis is someone just flat emptying my bank accout or maxing out my credit cards. If you are like me you rely on security software to protect this information. It’s easy to forget that virus and trojan infections are designed to steal your information, bank account numbers and identity. We get so wrapped up in preventing the inconvenience of an infected computer that we forget why the infection was designed.

Who are the big players in the protection game? I’d certainly have to include Norton and McAfee. I’d say they are the largest of the players. Kapersky and TrendMicro are some big players. Then there are the most popular free offerings, AVG, Avast, Malwarebytes.

These are the companies that are protecting most of us. I know where my antivirus is made. What about you? Do you know who you’ll be dealing with if there is a problem? Let’s take a look and see what we can find out about them.

Popular Paid Programs


Norton/Symantec: Norton was originally started by Peter Norton in 1982. Mr. Norton sold his business to Symantec in 1990. It is a publicly held company. The headquarters for Symantec, maker of Norton 360 and several other security programs is located in Cupertino California. They have reported 17,663 employees working in 59 countries. The locations are listed as: 1. The Americas, 2. Asia Pacific, and 3. Middle East, Euro, and Africal.

Customer service is by e mail, chat, or phone and is available 24/7. These contact points are available from within the program.

A quick purchase and call to the Customer Service Center routes me to Southern India. My wait time was right at 14 minutes. The gentleman on the other end was pleasant, relatively hard to understand and not very technically helpful.

As if directed from a bad movie, the call was disconnected. I’m not sure if it was my cell service or something on his end but who knows when you’re connection goes half way around the world. We were at the end of the conversation so I did not try to contact again. The structure of the support was well thought out, but the actual support was lacking and hard to understand. I would expect for a company of this size to be organized but I would also expect valid tech support. Questions regarding actual protection, definitions, or issues were politely circumvented. Real support was lacking. I felt I was in contact with a robot. It was obvious that the Tech was reading his replies. Retail cost for Norton 360 is $79.99. Symantec software allows 3 installations.

I can’t say for sure that all of their product development is from India but certainly all of their support is and I would wager a large majority of their development is also.


McAfee:Founded by John McAfee in 1989 and Headquartered in Santa Clara, California. Major growth has been the result of wise purchases of companies like FSA network for encryption software, and SiteAdvisor which warns users of malware on individual sites. On January 4, 2006, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit against McAfee for overstating its 1998–2000 net revenue by $622 million. McAfee did not admit any wrong doing but settled the complaint and agreed to pay $50 million in penalties while restructuring its accounting model. McAfee gets the bulk of its sales from follow-up service, support, and renewal of software subscriptions. McAfee also sells directly and through resellers to corporations and consumers mainly in the United States. Europe is its largest overseas market with fewer sales in Japan and Latin America. McAfee was acquired in 2011 by Intel for about $7.68 billion.

Total Protection shows an inflated retail of $89.99 and is summarily marked down to $59.99 reflecting a constant 30+% discount. This seems to be all about marketing rather than presenting a reasonable price that reflects the worth of the product. I purchased this software and installed it easily. It did change some of my update preferences and once again when I contacted their “new” call center I was greeted by someone from India.

I want to make it clear at this point that I have no problem doing business with India or East Indians, but I have a particularly hard time understanding that dialect. I’ve had some great laughs both at my expense and the expense of those in help centers trying to get information for help. This was no exception. After giving me a name I’ll never remember I was asked, “What model automobile are you driving?” “Pardon me?” So I don’t know if she just came from another gig or if she has several phones at her desk or what, but it didn’t fill me with confidence.

I wouldn’t say I lost sleep over the incident but it did seem odd. Odd enough that I did some more digging. So here’s what I found out. The people on the other end are not McAfee employees. They are employees of a Customer Service Group known as APAC. This means that I’m yet another step further removed from true customer service. The company is contracted to do customer service and sales for many, many companies. So when you are looking for help with your antivirus product and the person on the other end asks “what model automobile are you driving?”, don’t be alarmed. Sometimes they just forget which phone they are answering today.

I finally had to say thank you, thank you, everything is fine, no no it’s all fine. Of course it wasn’t all fine but between wait time and pardon me time it was going on 35 minutes of me trying to get an answer to a question relating to the site adviser part of their software.

I’m not making this stuff up. I later found out that their site adviser does not work with Chrome or FireFox, only Internet Explorer. Not a big deal really, but because of the language barrier I was never able to understand what they were telling me and to be honest I don’t believe they understood what I was asking.

Check out Part 2 in our November NewsLetter.

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11 thoughts on “AV Software – An Exposé

  1. I’m not sure where the information about Site Advisor not working with Firefox or Chrome. I use both and it works just fine.

    If the writer of this article had problems with Site Advisor, that’s one thing. But false/incorrect statements issued as absolute leaves me in doubt about the accuracy of the rest of the article.

  2. Something I can’t understand is how there can be so many companies providing AV software which needs updating every day to combat the latest threats. Surely they don’t all have teams of clever programmers working day in day out to beat the virus writers? And how can some AV software be free if the software is so difficult to provide? Is there a lot of clever marketing going on?

    It is also worth noting that Microsoft provide regular security updates and software add-ons such as Security Essentials free of charge, and so they should when we pay so much for their operating systems in the first place.

  3. One global solution when calling customer service for computers is, “Restore to a certain time in the past when your computer was working fine.” Then you lose all of the upgrades or software that you’ve installed since that time. That doesn’t work for me. So, who do you go to? Is there anyone in the US who knows how to fix computer cliches?

  4. Patriotism is the (usually illogical) emotional response inspired simply by one’s geographic birthplace and a childhood filled with false propaganda.
    Radiation deaths due to carelessness – what about Nagasaki – the second A bomb that was not needed but because it was a different type they wanted to see if it would work and its consequences.
    Also USA radiographers:
    Trusting other nations software: google “amdocs” an Israeli company that does almost all the US phone metering/billing and has hooks into the phone system so they tap politicians, religious leaders phones and blackmail them into cooperation.
    Worried about your bank account – the US government is there to protect the big corporations, not you. I they protected you, you can be damned sure the banks wouldn’t let YOUR money be stolen from THEM – they could protect you much more but why should they?
    How much do Norton MacAfee pay you?

  5. Ummm – not to imply that poor arithmetic skills (or English language and/or editing skills) would imply poor research or software evaluation skills – but $89.99 to $59.99 is not a “30% discount”.

    $30, yes, but it’s a 37.5% discount

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