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Panda CEO and CTO talk Cloud Antivirus 1.0 as download link goes live

Panda Cloud Antivirus is one of the more talked about releases of 2009. Its new spin on the traditional antivirus model -- like many new programs which embrace cloud computing -- has been met with both praise and criticism. Panda themselves are bullish on Cloud AV, and I was fortunate enough to speak about it with CEO Juan Santana and Senior Research Advisor Pedro Bustamante.

To Santana and Bustamante, Panda's beta testing period was huge success. One way they measured is by taking a look at what Collective Intelligence -- the remote muscle powering Cloud AV -- has processed so far. "Right now, there is about 25 terabytes of data in the Collective Intelligence database," said Santana.

"About 60% of that," he continued, "is malware. We're receiving about 120,000 new files a day, of which 60-70,000 are malicious." In total, Collective Intelligence has processed more than 80 million files so far and generates about 150 gigabytes of log files per day.

On top of that, Cloud AV scored an impressive 99.4% detection rate in a recent round of testing. That figure put it ahead of free favorites like Avira, Avast, AVG, and even Microsoft's new Security Essentials.

"Panda Cloud Antivirus is a new protection model," said Santana. For starters, it's the "first antivirus without an update button." Because of that, beta testing was very important.

"We wanted lots of adopters to help validate the new model [and we] wanted heavy testing even outside the traditional market." While Panda doesn't disclose exact numbers, Bustamante informed me that the number of installs was "in the millions." That's certainly impressive for a rookie antivirus offering.

As I mentioned, response to Cloud AV has been somewhat mixed. There's no denying it is a capable, lightweight antivirus program. The Collective Intelligence backend allows Cloud AV to adapt quickly to emerging threats, and resource usage is about on par with Security Essentials.

One big concern users have expressed is about privacy -- no one wants their personal files getting whisked away to the cloud without permission, even for analysis by a security application. "Privacy is very important to us," said Bustamane. "Files such as Word documents, Excel sheets, and pictures are analyzed locally. Only binaries like .exe, .com, and .bat files are transmitted."

Another common concern is bandwidth usage. However, Bustamante assured me that isn't an issue with Cloud AV. "Based on data we collected during the beta, average bandwidth use per client per day is about 140Kb," he said. That's a drop in the bucket compared to the massive daily definition downloads other programs like Norton and McAfee are pulling down.

While Cloud AV is obviously intended for connected computers, you're still protected if you go offline. "The local cache of Panda Cloud Antivirus is a 'moving target' of what the community 'sees' out there circulating in the wild. However, it's not quite the same as the traditional signature updates which are always incremental (always adding signatures, not taking them out)," said Bustamante.

Those of you who follow our site probably know that I've been using MSE for a while now. However, with Cloud AV's recent bugfixes and improvements and full-on support for Windows 7, I've made the switch. One of the contributing factors: definition downloads. Some days MSE had been terribly sluggish when trying to fetch updates - and a definition-based antivirus app with outdated defs doesn't fit in my protection plans.

Were you waiting for the RTM to switch? Today -- November 10th, 2009 -- is release day for Cloud Antivirus and Panda seems poised to make some serious noise in the world of free antivirus. Download it now at!

If you happen to work for an educational institution and are looking for possible ways to trim your budget, I've got one possibility for you. As we wrapped up our discussion, I asked Santana if Cloud AV was going to follow Microsoft's licensing model for MSE -- it's free for both home and SOHO use. "Cloud Antivirus will be free for home users as well as educational centers," said Santana. Switching to Cloud AV could represent a significant cost savings for some schools.

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