PRAGUE, Czech Republic, December 6, 2010 - AVAST Software has always prided itself in how the avast! antivirus program spreads virally, with 80 percent of new users coming through the recommendations of satisfied friends. But the rapid global expansion of one multi-user license for avast! Pro Antivirus surprised even the company’s top management.
What started as a 14-user license for a small firm in Tucson, Arizona issued on June 30, 2009 quickly mushroomed to 774,651 active users by late 2010. The license has been used in over 200 countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe – even the Vatican City. Phenomenal growth yes, but except for the original 14 users, all of the others are pirates.
“We made a decision to see just how viral this one license for avast! Pro Antivirus could be. The answer is ‘very’,” said Vince Steckler, CEO of AVAST Software. “Now we are in the process of converting these pirates over to legal products.”
The speed at which the pirated license spread from Arizona was accelerated by warez sites, a common source of downloaded films and programs. “We found our license code at a number of warez sites around the globe,” said Mr. Steckler. “There is a paradox in computer users looking for ‘free’ antivirus programs at locations with a known reputation for spreading malware.” He pointed out that downloading at these sites is not risk-free as the avast! Virus Lab has documented examples of warez sites distributing packages of a ‘cracked’ antivirus program combined with malware.
Users of the pirated license have been tracked by their geographic IP address to over 200 countries. “The list contains about every country you have heard of – and some you haven’t,” quipped Mr. Steckler. Russia, the country with the largest number of pirated license users, still has less than 9% of the total. With no pirated licenses identified at the North Pole, the most unexpected location is for the two computers located within the Vatican.
Top Dirty Dozen*
*data from internal reports on pirated license usage, sorted by country.
By using the pirated license for avast! Pro Antivirus, over a quarter of a million computers have had access to the avast! antivirus engine with two additional features. “Pro does have the virtualization sandbox and a Script Shield to scan for internet-transmitted script viruses,” said Mr. Steckler. “However, the antivirus engine in Pro is the same used across the entire avast! product line, including the avast! Free Antivirus.”
The identified users were sent a pop-up notice that they had a pirated avast! license and that they would be cut off from virus database updates. They have also been given the option of converting to avast! Free Antivirus or buying avast! Pro Antivirus.