Open source a natural for anti-virus software?

Some argue that open source could actually make the world's virus problems worse. Those people are smoking something.

Consider: a large population of users who can report virii. Many people with the same "itch" (to be free of virii). A subsegment of both communities with the aptitude and interest in killing these virii.

Should be a perfect market for open source, right? Architecture of participation and all that....ClamAV seems to make the argument that it is.

The answer may not be so straightforward, according to Chris Pirillo:

Don't you find it a bit odd that some of these companies sell protective tools that slow our systems down, but also sell products that will allegedly speed our systems up?

What if the leading anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware products were open source rather than commercial in nature?

He then quotes Peter Schwankl who argues (incomprehensibly to my mind) that open source would make virus problems worse, not better, because the virii would become more, well, virulent, whereas the antivirus programs would become too hard to crack....If you're lost as to how open source would create either problem, you're not alone.

We live in a world where there are bad people who want to write virii. We will always live in this world. While we live in this world, I think we're better off taking a community approach to antivirus: a community to report problems and a community to fix problems. That's what open source provides.

Antivirus is a classic example of where open source should thrive. The key to doing so, however, is lowering the barriers to contribution of virus alerts and definitions (and fixes), not raising them.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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