Robert O’Callahan, an Ex-Mozilla top engineer, has explained in a blog post why users should stop using third party Antivirus solutions. Specifically, he suggests Windows 8.1 users ditch all other AV programs and only leave the original Antivirus which comes with the Operating System – Microsoft’s Windows Defender.
The announcement comes amid the lack of evidence suggesting that non-MS AV products do not provide any improvement in security, in fact, they may only hinder your performance. There are a plethora of third party Antivirus solutions all claiming top notch security and how they will protect you against every threat. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, Justin Shuh Information Security Engineer at Google, posted on twitter how Antivirus companies poison the software ecosystem because their unprofessional, invasive, and poorly-implemented code makes it difficult to standardize security practices. This variety in security implementations makes it even harder for browser vendors to push out secure software.
@justinschuh @codelancer @taviso Never understood why. AV is part of infosec. If you want to be infosec expert, you HAVE to know enough AV.
— Vess (@VessOnSecurity) November 26, 2016
An example of Antivirus software interfering with implemented browser security practices includes blocking browser updates. This prevents users from receiving important security updates and introduces unnecessary vulnerability. Furthermore, many browsers implemented what’s called ASLR. Address space layout randomization (ASLR) is a protection mechanism for operating systems which guards against buffer-overflow attacks.
A buffer overflow attack allows the hacker to control or crash processes of the target program and even to modify its internal variables. ASLR prevents such attacks by randomizing the location where system executables are loaded into memory. Firefox implemented ASLR for windows, however, many Antiviruses broke that implementation by injecting their own ASLR-disabled libraries, effectively opening up browsers to the buffer overflow vulnerabilities.
Why is nobody speaking out about it?
No software vendor wants to point out these issues because of the repercussions that may occur. Since Antivirus solutions are heavily associated with security, no company wants them to bad mouth your company. Furthermore, when AV programs break your product you need their cooperation in order to solve the issue, if you bad mouth them you won’t get the cooperation you need and your product will become useless. When users install your product and it crashes on launch, they will blame your product and not the archaic and detrimental antivirus software that they have installed.
Antivirus solutions are becoming archaic and unneeded, it is much better to adopt better security practices instead of relying on an antivirus to slow down your computer and open up more vulnerabilities. Stick to the default AV which comes with Windows and you won’t experience any problems. It is sad to see such a monopoly from antivirus companies that other software vendors are scared to speak up. As more reputable individuals such as Robert O’Callahan and Justin Shuh speak up about the issue, customers will notice that third party antivirus solutions are useless and should be avoided.
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