One hundred and thirty million users

Francisco F completed his registration of Avast at 05:52:52 GMT on 7 September 2010 and, in doing, so, became the 130 millionth user of the popular free AV product. Almost 35 million of those new users registered in 2010, and the company reports growth in the numbers of registered users of one-third from 2009 onwards.

The company Avast now claims that it makes the world’s most popular AV program in three categories: the size of its registered user base, its growth in the number of users during 2010, and in the high level of referrals from satisfied users.

Where have the users come from? Avast reckons that nearly half of those switching from a competing product came from AVG or one of Symantec’s Norton products, and over 60 percent of new users arrived following a friend’s recommendation.

Users are drawn from some 240 countries, although France’s is among the largest user bases, with the UK coming up fast. The wide user base is important, as it adds to the depth of the product’s security. According to Avast’s CTO Ondrej Vlcek: “Because malware can now be designed in one country, hosted in another, and targeted on a third, you really need to have a balanced presence to stay secure. Our CommunityIQ network gives us an exceptionally broad network of sensors to protect our 130 million plus users.”

Virus writers get obvious
From the first time that PC viruses appeared on the scene back in the 1980s – yes it really wasthat long ago – the one thing that’s characterised them has been their stealthiness. Oh sure, there have been plenty whose effects, once they’ve actually been installed onto a machine, have become painfully obvious. But the key to getting a virus onto a machine has always involved a degree of sneakiness or deception.

Until now. There’s quite an old virus, first spotted in 2003, that infects executable files, called Win32:Sality — and it now appears on the web, which I shan’t provide a link for, for obvious reasons, as a naked download. It was spotted by one of the Avast techies, and there’s more about it here.

The lesson here is: when spotting a download that you fancy, double-check the name of a file in the status bar of your browser, which will show you the underlying destination of any link you either hover over or click on once, depending on your browser and configuration.

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