Trialware anti-virus program misses virus

Question: I have a virus called w97m.class (.poppy), detected by Norton on a computer I sent a file to. It is rude, but not destructive. My McAfee VirusScan found nothing. I don’t have Norton, so I went to their web site to download a free 30-day trial. It took a while to do this, but I didn’t mind, because I knew Norton could do the job. I am considering buying a copy, but wanted to try it out. That’s what trialware is about, no?

Imagine my surprise when I learned that after a lengthy scan of all my drives, no virus was found. Then I see that the virus I have is not on the virus list. Then I see that the virus list is dated a little while back and no, it can’t be updated because this is trialware.

Virus scanners are perishable and have to be updated constantly to cope with new viruses. Imagine the lady at the demo table at the grocery store handing out samples of last July’s eggnog. Stinky? Well, ma’am, that’s because it’s a free trial. For fresh product, you need to buy a carton. So think how disposed I am NOW to buy a retail copy of Norton. – Still Contagious in Edmonton

Answer: Stinky eggnog. Now that’s a first for this column.

I contacted the folks at Symantec and they put me on to Chris Monnette, Symantec’s Canadian General Manager. He responded with this letter, which is pretty much self-explanatory:

“Thank you for your support of Norton AntiVirus and your concern about Symantec trialware. Trialware is designed to give users an understanding of how the software works and its expected performance. It is not intended to be a complete replacement for the full retail version.

“Development of trialware takes additional effort, so spending extraordinary time here will impact either price, quality, or delivery time of the full product. We believe it is more important to ensure that those customers who invest in the full retail product receive the quality that the Norton name is known for.

“Providing the ability to update the trialware version to the same level as the retail product would open the door to people using the product on an ongoing basis without paying for it. It is an unfortunate fact that software piracy is a significant problem.

“According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study, theft of software costs the Canadian economy significantly. In fact, simply reducing the piracy rate in Canada to that of our neighbours to the south would result in an additional $2.7 billion in sales and would result in the creation of over 22,000 jobs in Canada!

“Norton AntiVirus is not perishable in the same sense as food. It will not ‘spoil’ and will continue to work as long as you continue with the same operating system. With Norton AntiVirus installed on a computer, our Bloodhound feature will detect and protect against unknown viruses. It will not identify a virus by name on scanning, but when that particular virus attempts to replicate, it will recognize it as an unknown virus, notify the user, and remove it from the infected file. In other words, the trialware, if installed on a computer, will continue to protect users against old and new viruses for the full trial period regardless of whether the product has been updated.”

I have to agree with Symantec’s letter. If trialware was always up-to-date, no one would buy it. So ‘Still Contagious’, go out and spend the money to buy Norton Anti-Virus .

I also take issue with the numbers PricewaterhouseCoopers tosses around. Canada doesn’t have enough IT talent to fill 22,000 additional jobs. As a country, we’re already struggling to keep the tech talent we do have at home.

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