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Computer Associates today revived a free AV software offer to consumers months 18 months after canning a similar service as no longer viable.

In conjunction with Microsoft, CA is offering "qualified Windows home computer users" with a no-charge, one-year subscription to CA's eTrust EZ Armor antivirus and firewall desktop security suite.

CA discontinued updates for its free InoculateIT Personal Edition (IPE) anti-virus software in May 2002. Now, with Microsoft's support, a similar AV service is back with the added bonus of firewall software to boot.

Those consumers looking for free AV software always had Grisoft's admirable AVG AntiVirus to fall back on, of course. But the addition of another free alternative is no bad thing, particularly given the former popularity of CA's IPE package.

CA's offering adds to free consumer firewall packages from Zone Alarm and Agnitum's Oupost firewall (our current fave).

To get the free edition of CA’s security suite, consumers need to answer rather more questions than with other free software offers. That might put some people off but there again the software is free, which brings to mind the old adage about not looking a gift horse in the mouth...

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The eTrust EZ Armor special offer is part of Microsoft's Protect Your PC campaign, which is designed to encourage more consumers to think seriously about protecting themselves against security threats. A download link for the free, consumer-only edition of eTrust EZ Armor can be found here.

A recent study by AOL revealed that 62 per cent of home broadband users did not have recently updated antivirus software on their machines, leaving themselves open to viral infection.

According to the eighth annual ICSA Labs Virus Prevalence Survey, there are roughly 105 virus infections per 1,000 PCs per month. This has increased steadily from 32 per 1,000 PCs five years ago.

Microsoft hopes the program will help reverse this trend, which has focused unwelcome attention on the security hazards of using Windows PCs that reached new heights with the publicity surrounding the Blaster and Sobig worm this summer. ®

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