The cost of keeping viruses at bay just went up for users of Symantec's popular Norton AntiVirus program. The company recently increased the price of its necessary subscription renewal program from $US3.95 to $9.95 a year, drawing the ire of some vocal end users.
Symantec executives, however, defend the increase, saying it helps defray the company's costs of discovering new viruses and updating the software to detect and defeat them.
"The number of viruses we discover every day is dramatically increasing," said Laura Garcia, product manager for Norton AntiVirus. At the company's virus research facility, called Symantec Security Response, the company discovers 10 to 15 new viruses each day, she said.
Once the company detects a virus, programmers create a definition that lets the software detect it. Then they add that information to the weekly virus definition file that savvy PC users download regularly to update their antivirus software.
If a virus becomes very widespread, or particularly nasty, Symantec doesn't wait to add it to the weekly update, but offers it to customers for download right away, Garcia said.
Without these virus-definition updates, the antivirus software simply can't protect a PC against the latest batch of viruses. When you buy a full version of the software, Symantec includes 12 free months worth of updates. To go beyond that, owners re-subscribe, pay an annual fee, and receive updates for another year.
Symantec began the subscription price increase with the rollout of its new Norton AntiVirus 2002 program in September. The price increase applies to renewals for all previous versions of the program, Garcia said.
Users know when the software's subscription is about to run out because it will issue warnings at 30 days, 15 days, and 7 days, she said. To renew, users simply click a button and the software launches a browser window that walks them through the process.
While customers have complained about the price increase, Garcia said Symantec has yet to hear any negative feedback about the higher rate. "It was an extremely low price, and it is still extremely low."
Symantec's major antivirus software competitor is Network Associates' McAfee division and its VirusScan product. A spokesperson for McAfee said the company's yearly virus definition subscription rate is $4.95. McAfee has no plans to increase that price in the near future.
PC owners still using older version of Norton AntiVirus may be better served buying an updated version of the program instead of just renewing their subscription, Garcia said.
In addition to support for Windows XP, the latest version of the software includes improved e-mail scanning features, script-blocking capabilities, and the ability to deal with known viruses automatically.
Customers who already have Norton AntiVirus software, or competing products from McAfee, can purchase the new software for $50, and then receive a $20 rebate through the mail.