AVG Anti-virus Free Edition displays Become Legal to force pirated users to pay up

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Tom Keating
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AVG Anti-virus Free Edition displays Become Legal to force pirated users to pay up

avg antivirus logoAVG Anti-Virus Free Edition now complains (as of 2 days ago) if it detects you have more than 1 machine at home running AVG Free Edition. It then displays a popup message with a hyperlink to 'become legal'. Clicking the link brings you to AVG's website where you are offered the paid professional version to purchase. It welcomes you with what I took as a sarcastic "Welcome to the legal AVG community!".

Popup message with link asking you to Become Legal

AVG became very popular with many users since it essentially offers a feature-packed anti-virus program free of charge with free antivirus signature file updates. Unlike many antivirus software solutions, this "free" offer isn't simply a trial - it's perpetually free. The only caveat is that you are only supposed to use their software for personal use and not business.

I believe the AVG antivirus software is tracking IP address connections to their virus update server. If it notices mutiple PCs from the same IP address downloading the updates, it assumes you are using it in a business environment. I haven't fully tested how or when AVG displays this popup, but I wish AVG's algorithm would at least set the number of PCs to >5 before flagging as an ilegal copy, since many people have multiple PCs in their homes.

I actually received this error on a shared corporate laptop. Technically, the AVG antivirus software (free version) shouldn't have been installed on the laptop since it violates their licensing agreement. However, often times users take these laptops to tradeshows or hotels, outside the protected corporate network, get infected with a virus, google "free antivirus software" and find AVG as one of the search results. They then just blindly install it. They're supposed to read the licensing terms, but who does these days?

This phoning home tactic by AVG certainly seems to be borrowing a page from Microsoft which has instituted their WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) pirated software utility to "track" supposedly illegal copies of the Windows operating system.

AVG deserves to be commended for continuing to offer free anti-virus protection to end-users, but I'm a bit leery of their methods for attempting to detect business users breaking their licensing terms, which will no doubt result in false positives. Unfortunately, software vendors are becoming more draconian in attempting to enforce their software licensing even if they do throw the baby (legal users) out with the bath water (pirated users). What say you?

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