Antivirus Solutions by ISPs: Worth Your Time?

antivirus solutionsA few years back, Telstra BigPond were offering BigPond Security, a solution to the common bugs and Trojans that steal credit card numbers, house alarm combinations and other sensitive data that people leave on their computers. That was the pitch anyway. Before working for Compare Broadband, I was working for BigPond sales. Contrary to most people’s belief that all Telstra centres are based in the Phillipines or India, I was working close to home in Burwood, Victoria. We were paid quite well for call centre work, and there was an attractive, if complicated bonus system.

In a nutshell, your minimum threshold for achieving a bonus was about 120 broadband(BB) sales a month, and 40 value-added services. If you got 150 BBs and no value added, then no bonus. Value added services included NRL or V8Supercars videos on your mobile, BigPond Movies trials and other bits and bobs. But the big push was for BigPond Security, an antivirus program that was either $10 a month or $100 a year. A signup required a credit card number at first; eventually they allowed for it to be added as an additional item to your bill.

It was an easy sell. An open secret was that most people going for a Telstra connection were uneasy with technology, and so trusted in Telstra’s brand. So convincing these types of customers to pay a little extra for a rock solid antivirus solution was basic- use a tiny amount of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and offer the convenience of it being added to your bill, and scoring 40 sales a month should be a snap.

So what exactly is this antivirus software being sold to Telstra customers?

For starters, BigPond Security isn’t “BigPond” at all. It’s a re-badged McAfee antivirus suite. Like many antivirus software suites, it was both friend and foe. It was specifically necessary for non-technical people, who require something that can keep them protected, and it required too much know-how for it to work correctly. Without a proper schedule, the program would revert to an hourly or daily scan, which will bog down the lo-rent computers most non-technical people would buy. And while a technical person can account for and understand the limitations of their machine, most people will just assume the thing is possessed and reach critical mass, and then take their rage out on some poor call centre worker.

More to the point, the sale would start with a soft pitch of “you can trial it free for a month”. Of course, this necessitated two things. First, you would have to check your BigPond email (not everyone uses their ISP assigned email) for a link to download the software. And you would have to choose to opt out of the service after that month. With so many of the sales set up as an afterthought, and with so many people hazy on what was entailed, you can bet there were plenty of people who never downloaded the software, never opted out, and never bothered to check what that extra charge was on their bill.

BigPond Security is still available today, but I can’t comment on how or whether or not salespeople are incentivized to sell it. It’s not terribly well advertised on their site, so I can only imagine they’ve eased up on pushing it. Other providers have mostly abstained, although Vodafone is offering its own rebadged McAfee Android App, to provide protection against the new and scary world of Android malware.

Besides the fact that most of the best antivirus solutions is either free or very expensive, it’s a safe bet to say that any cheap solution offered by an ISP is the most frustrating way to go. When it comes to security, it’s best to go with what works rather than what’s convenient. No one doubts the importance of an antivirus strategy but never feel pressured by an ISP into buying something you don’t need. Always a good rule of thumb for any purchase – for something to be of good value, it must first be good.

Adam Wajnberg writes for Compare Broadband, a broadband comparison website offering advice on choosing the right broadband plan. Call us on 1300 764 000 for more information on the latest broadband deals or advice on choosing a plan.

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