Promisec, a company that makes endpoint management tools, conducted the study on 100,000 PCs to prove a point: that antivirus management consoles from leading vendors are not accurately reporting when their software isn't working. The endpoint security tool vendor hopes the report will help drive users to try out its "clientless" management tools, which it says can take a more accurate reading of the status of AV software on remote endpoints.
The study, which was conducted from June to November of this year, tested the status of AV software on 100,000 endpoints in businesses operating in a variety of industries. According to the researchers, more than one-fourth of all computers were found to have missing or disabled antivirus software. But network administrators weren't being alerted to the problem by the vendors' management consoles, Promisec says.
"It's a serious issue, and really a scary situation," says Gary Morse, president of Razorpoint Security Technologies, a penetration testing firm. "Companies rely on antivirus software and assume they're covered. You've got a CIO sleeping well at night, thinking everything is secure when nothing could be further from the truth."
In many cases, users had turned off the antivirus software, thinking that would make their computers run faster, the researchers say. In other instances, the antivirus software was never deployed to certain computers. But the AV management tools didn't pick up the problems, Promisec says.
"What we're seeing are companies paying Symantec, McAfee, and others for protection that is only working about 75 percent of the time," adds Alan Komet, vice president of marketing for Promisec. "The vendors' management console is simply not a good monitoring source."