Project addresses antivirus gap in open-source development

There is definitely a pantheon of open-source products that enterprises have embraced, including Linux, Apache and Sendmail. But what about open-source antivirus software? The OpenAntiVirus Project is trying to fill that gap. The group hopes the same community-based approach that worked so well for Linux and other open-source applications will work for antivirus. Recently, SearchSecurity.com conducted an e-mail interview with Howard Fuhs, co-founder of the project. Fuhs knows a thing or two about antivirus software, having been in the field since 1989. He was the distributor of the now-defunct PC Vaccine Professional. He also distributed the AntiViral Toolkit Pro from Kaspersky Labs until 1999.

When will you have a working product?
There are already working products available for download. Some of the products are in a basic development stage and not in a stage that I could recommend them to the average mortal computer user. We are actually at the beginning of our future and have to cope with a heavy backlog of things to do, to develop and to program. Don't forget the AV industry started back in the mid-'80s. How is the project going?
The project is going very well for an open-source project, as we have lots of people participating [in] or supporting the project, but it cannot yet be compared to commercial projects in the field of antivirus technology. How did the OpenAntiVirus Project come about?
The OpenAntiVirus Project was originally founded in August 2000, but the foundation members of the project were working together for antivirus solutions long before. How would open-source antivirus be different from commercial applications?
In the commercial field of antivirus, the public review process is widely substituted by plain marketing methods, and the technological process of reviewing a product is limited [to] testing a product against viruses and not reviewing, for example, the product-included heuristic detection code, whether it is an up-to-date solution or already-outdated code of yesteryear. In my years in the antivirus industry, I observed that companies tend to go for the money and not for the best solution available, which means they are acting for their own advantage and not necessarily for their customers' advantage, like most of the companies in all markets tend to do. We are making no marketing promises but [offering] hard facts.

The second reason is the security the GNU licensing scheme offers to users. No sudden change of licensing terms offers long-term security for users and protects their investment in … installed software. And when I am talking about investment, I do not mean the money to buy a product but the time to set up, configure and maintain a product when it is placed in the working environment.

The price factor (for free) is a very well-accepted fact for schools and universities, as they are constantly short of money.

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Why would someone want an open-source antivirus product?
An open-source solution can be reviewed by everybody who thinks of himself [as] being capable of doing so, as the whole development process is transparent to the public because everybody is welcome to participate in or support the process of development. Also, the source codes of the solutions are available for public review. This leads to evolutionary programming, which makes sure that only the good and strong code survives and the bad is dropped in the process of selection. What needs is the project addressing?
The idea for the OpenAntiVirus Project emerged from the urgent need for transparent antivirus solutions, which can be reviewed properly and without restrictions or limitations for ensuring the quality of the implemented solution in the field of private and commercial users.

One has to understand that the very basic software you need to run a computer is the operating system. This can now be extended to antivirus software as well, as it doesn't matter … which task a computer is set up [for]. As long as the computer is hooked up to a network and is communicating with other computers, it is nowadays mandatory to have … antivirus software up and running to protect your assets against malicious mobile code. Today, antivirus software is no longer an optional protection system for anxious users but more a mandatory protection for people communicating worldwide over the Internet. Is the project aimed at individual users or at corporate users?
Whoever wants it can use it. As an open-source project, we are not bound to business plans in which we are identifying target groups for specific product or marketing issues. We just want to offer a solution to the public.

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