Endpoint protection for devices on a business network that contains sensitive customer data is a no-brainer. Nevertheless, small businesses and startup companies sometimes opt for using free, personal-use antivirus programs like Microsoft Windows Defender, Comodo, or other free security packages licensed for business use.
Besides violating the good faith agreement antivirus companies offer with their free products, it puts your company’s security in jeopardy.
Businesses need a data security service of some kind, if not more than one type. Free antivirus is better than nothing, but far from recommend practice.
Free Antivirus Coverage is Limited
Free services tend to offer seriously limited functionality when compared to business security suites. Free antivirus designed for a single device might not communicate with other endpoints on a network, and it certainly doesn’t come with the kind of support necessary when things get ugly with malware.
Paid services offer customer support, most paid data protection software includes:
- Better-kept malware indexes
- Settings for more active scanning
- Network firewall services
- Frequent updates
Security companies know that businesses are constantly under attack by cyber criminals. Rhino Security Labs’ Security Poverty Index surveyed 900 companies and found that 75% reported a significant risk to their network security.
Business editions also keep a tighter watch on your network, scanning files more actively and probing deeper into system files to remove rootkits and other pesky malware that is often overlooked by your everyday free editions.
See a complete list of articles on HardBoiled about network security for small business.
Malware Isn’t Your Only Problem
With the increase in companies that have a BYOD policy and allow remote work, the risk of a breach has never been higher for companies that don’t pay attention to security. Hackers can use open connections to infiltrate individual devices to gain access and steal privileged information.
Smaller companies with such policies should have a Virtual Private Network (VPN) subscription for employees using endpoints that are not issued by the business.
A VPN directs a remote device connection to a secure server before it accesses the internet. The server encrypts traffic from the remote device, and limits exposure to potential theats associated with unsafe networks. Free VPN services may sell user data to third parties; this is a common practice in the industry. If you are looking for recommendations, the Secure Thoughts publication site vets and rates hundreds of services.
The Liability is Yours
In the event of a major data breach, you don’t want to be caught using a free antivirus program for your business if for no other reason than for liability purposes. Data theft frequently leads to lawsuits and accusations of impropriety for not taking the security of your customers seriously.
Free security software often fails to meet industry standards for security customer information, resulting in a deposition against your company. Showing that your business has taken appropriate measures manages public perception should you succumb to a data breach.
We’re not suggesting that being a victim is a good thing, but appearing negligent worsens the situation dramatically.
The Bottom Line: The Cost is Worth It
Going cheap on security software is simply not a smart choice. Avoid free antivirus solutions, particularly to the exclusion of other paid services.
- The free services just don’t work as effectively
- Other paid services—firewalls, VPNs—are also necessary for safety
- Failure to meet industry standards exposes you to liability
It does not mean you should immediately go out and start spending money by the fistful on security services that do not fit your needs.
Do yourself and your customers a favor: upgrade from free antivirus and research your options for data security software.
About the Author: Caroline Black is a cybersecurity and technology blogger specializing in business security.