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AOL restricts free security software to friends and members

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Updated AOL has switched technology provider for its free security service for consumers from Kaspersky to McAfee.

Last year AOL began offering consumers a free anti-virus software package, dubbed Active Virus Shield, powered by technology from Kasperesky Lab. No AOL membership was required to use the service, though users are obliged to submit their email details in order to activate the technology.

Last week Active Virus Shield users began reporting problems download signature definition updates, at least from AOL (unconfirmed reports suggests updates are still obtainable from Kaspersky directly). Without much publicity AOL has discontinued Active Virus Shield powered by Kaspersky in favour of a new service, McAfee Virus Scan Plus-Special edition from AOL. The McAfee-powered service offers a personal firewall and anti-spyware features as well as protection from computer viruses.

The upgraded service is offered as no extra charge to members. Contrary to what we initially reported its also available at no charge to users who signed up to Active Virus Shield or have an AOL screen name.

Both Kaspersky and McAfee are well respected in the industry and free consumer antivirus packages, most notably Grisoft's AVG, remain available so the closure of Active Virus Shield after a little more than a year isn't exactly the end of the world. Nonetheless AOL has come in for a bit of criticism for failing to give much notice or explanation for the changes. Users of Active Virus Shield who fail to act might be left unprotected against malware. ®

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