Comodo Anti-Virus: Savior or Devil In Disguise?

May 12, 2006

Imagine this: A reputable security company releases an eternally-free, "enterprise-class," anti-malware engine that doesn't waste CPU cycles, or otherwise molest your machine. Windows users rejoice that they can surf without fear of PTM (Porn-Transmitted Malware), and they line up to buy the company's other, for-cash, products. A national holiday is named in honor of the "firm that saved the internet."

That's the dream that Comodo CEO Melih Abdulhayoglu is trying to fulfill with Comodo Anti-Virus V1.0, a free anti-malware offering designed to slot-in with Comodo's other gratis goods, like VerificationEngine, Comodo Personal Firewall and iVault.

But something happened on the way to National Comodo Day.

A row is brewing over Comodo's bundling of software called LaunchPad with Comodo Anti-Virus and their other freebies. Some allege that LaunchPad is impossible-to-uninstall adware, or worse. On the alt.comp.freeware news group, Alan Leghart rails:

As has been disussed in public forums, the Launch Pad is add-on software used as a marketing vehicle for other Comodo products and services. There is no documentation or mention of the add on software at Comodo's web site. As well, there is no method to un-install the software without removing the desired application... Comodo's overall image of trustworthiness is degraded by tactics formerly reserved to scam artists. Upon first evaluation, I cautioned other admins that lack of a paid version available to Comodo customers indicated future use as an advertising gimmick. ...I'm getting that prickly feeling on the back of my neck. I'm trusting my most sensitive passwords and credit cards to a company who starts bundling and crippling it's "free" products in order to present advertising information multiple times per day. Perhaps Comodo should call this "sponsored" software instead of free. Disabling the advertising cripples the desired application. Sounds pretty obvious to me.

NickC had similar complaints when LaunchPad showed up after he installed the company's free file synchronization utility, Comodo BackUp:

...the accompanying LaunchPad tray utility is incredibly invasive. There is no way to disable it. It phones home regularly. I had to login as administrator and use Windows Defender to disable it. As well, it hides itself in the Task Manager so that you can't kill it.

Comodo CEO Melih Abdulhayoglu defended LaunchPad, claiming that it only checks for updates and informs the enduser about Comodo's other free offerings. He maintains that it downloads and installs software at the user's command, never on its own.

He also drops the CEO-speak and gives a candid insight into why Comodo's giving so much stuff away:

We want to create a free desktop security products so that people will like our products so that we can introduce new technologies which will allow us make money from enterprises. Our desktop security products will always be free for desktops (even for enterprises)! We make money from providing Digital Certificates to online businesses and having our innovative products downloaded by end users will mean we can make more money from businesses.

If Mr. Abdulhayoglu can be taken at his word, the worst we can expect from Comodo Anti-Virus is a periodic nag screen hawking Comodo's other products. Seems a minor inconvenience, if the software works as well as its press release says it does.

While we may not be celebrating Comodo Day in the near future, it's great to have more guests at the AV party, especially with so many members of the current bunch either puking on the carpet or wearing out their welcome.

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