Rogers absorbs cost of Net security
The days of paying a separate monthly fee to protect your home computer from viruses, spyware and other malicious intruders are gradually coming to an end.
Come June, all Rogers Cable high-speed Internet customers will get "all security features," including PC anti-virus, firewall protection and anti-spyware, for free as part of their monthly service subscription, the company said yesterday. Rogers currently charges $4.95 a month for McAfee anti-virus, the same amount for firewall protection, or $8.95 for both.
"We think anti-virus and (firewall protection) is a good thing our customers should have," said Terry Canning, vice-president of Internet at the Toronto-based cable company.
"It takes the crap out of the Internet."
Canning said there are too many different PC and Internet security products on the market, creating confusion for online users that often leads to inaction.
Less than 5 per cent of Rogers' high-speed customers actively use anti-virus or firewall features, according to the company.
"People are looking for leadership on this," said Canning, adding that 10 years after Rogers first launched high-speed Internet service the online world has become a more hazardous place to surf.
What was once mostly online vandalism has turned into a "more professional sport of intrusion," marked by a dramatic increase in identity crimes and, according to a recent Ipsos-Reid survey, rising consumer concern.
Rogers has roughly 1 million high-speed Internet subscribers in its operating territories of Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.
It's just the latest major Internet service provider in Canada to view the free provision of PC-protection software as a cost of doing business.
Last November, Montreal-based Cogeco Cable, which sells broadband services around the Kingston area and Golden Horseshoe, began offering a free security package that includes PC anti-virus and firewall protection.
The package, however, still costs $8 a month for its Internet "Lite" customers, and does not yet include spyware protection.
Bell, meanwhile, won't say if it plans to go the free route.
The company charges between $6 and $6.95 a month for a "basic security" package that includes PC anti-virus and firewall protection. Add anti-spyware and that package increases to $10 a month. Anti-spyware on its own costs $5.95.
Brian Sharwood, an analyst with telecom and Internet consultancy, the Seaboard Group, said some ISPs are beginning to realize that the limited revenue gains that come from selling security features is small compared to the savings that come with better-protected networks.
"It pays for the ISPs to do it," he said.
When a PC gets a virus or is compromised by a hacker it can result in a flood of data being unleashed on a network in the form of spam or denial-of-service attacks.
The more an ISP can get its customers to use anti-virus and other security features the less garbage travels over that network, potentially causing service disruptions.
"It doesn't take many subscribers to mess up the whole network," said Sharwood. "The less rogue data they have roaming around the network the better, because it slows down the whole system, and the ISPs have to pay for the extra bandwidth that's used."
In addition to the ISPs, Microsoft has begun offering free anti-spyware software and has recently revamped a firewall feature built into recent versions of its Windows operating system.
The world's largest software company has also been on a security spending-spree, buying up antivirus companies and similar ventures leading to speculation that an anti-virus feature will soon become a built-in feature of Windows.