Antivirus is supposed to be one of the most reliable software, as its primary purpose is to protect us from malware. However, when it comes to privacy, everything can change. It's a lot of money Mars…
Below we will see 3 ways in which an Antivirus can violate our privacy
The data for this publication comes from Restore Privacy, an organization dedicated to helping Internet users protect their privacy. They published a study called "Is Your Antivirus Software Spying on You?"Our research presents information on how antivirus monitors us.
1. Antivirus has provided user data in the past
One of the biggest privacy scandals of 2020 was when it was discovered that Avast sells its users' information to third parties. Avast tracking data was anonymous, but the companies that bought the data could compare clicks to an activity history and pinpoint who is behind the anonymity.
These scandals have been observed to occur in free antiviruses because this is how these companies make money - selling their users' information to interested third parties.
2. Antivirus can scan HTTPS data
Antivirus protects you from visiting malicious websites. To do this, they need to record what you are visiting. This is not supposed to be a problem when you visit a website that uses HTTPS, as your computer will encrypt the data before the antivirus can "see" where you are.
But antiviruses can bypass this by creating a proxy on your computer capable of creating fake SSL certificates. When your computer connects to an HTTPS site, the proxy grabs it, checks the URL, and then sends it to its destination with a new certificate.
You can see this process happening on the certificate itself. Click the padlock next to an HTTPS site, check the certificate, and then see the item that says "Issued by." If it states the name of the antivirus you are using, it means that your security software is monitoring your release.
3. Antiviruses may contain add-ons that monitor you
Some antivirus programs come with additional tools that are supposed to keep you browsing. These are potentially unwanted programs (simply PUPs) that could violate your privacy.
For example AVG, comes with a PUP called SafePrice. It's supposed to find you the best prices on products you search on the internet, just by tracking your spending.
From the above it seems that antivirus can monitor us in more than one way. Depending on the PUP they install and how they are used, they may have a lot of data.
Why do Antivirus want our data?
Data is worth a lot and when an online service offers its platform for free and without ads, it does not have many options for profit. Thus, it sells the data it collects to interested third parties.
One of the main mottos for free software is "if you do not pay for the product, you are the product". With this in mind we should not be surprised that free antivirus collects information.
Nevertheless, the idea of collecting data from these "reliable" software worries many. A good antivirus should protect its users and prevent any breach of privacy.
How to avoid giving data to antivirus
Unfortunately, not using antivirus is not the ideal choice. It is good to have a layer of defense against viruses and hackers. But what can you do?
You can use Antivirus that is not free. But there are many who will not be able to pay for a premium antivirus, or just do not want to. In this case, you need to be careful what you choose.
If you like the appearance of a free antivirus, do not just stay there. Read the terms of service to see what they write. Do not blindly click on "Next" of the installation and do not avoid the selection of all those who request the collection of your data.
Finally, check the options and get rid of any default settings that may violate your privacy, such as controlling HTTPS addresses.
When you download an antivirus and proceed with the installation, proceed slowly to make sure that a PUP will not be installed. Read the installer carefully and do not keep pressing the "Next" button until you have completed the process. You may agree to install software that you do not want. This, in turn, can invade your privacy and monitor your every activity.
Here we should mention ClamAV. ClamAV is a special case, as the whole program is open source. This means that you can trust it even though it is free.
ClamAV is the rare case of an antivirus that comes free and respects your privacy. So is one good choice if you do not want to pay and you do not like the idea of providing your data.