VirusTotal Access to be Limited: Google

May 17, 2016 | By James Raymond
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Google has recently made announcements to limit the access to its virus database website, VirusTotal, in an attempt to ostracise companies from the system who do not contribute to the website’s analytics.

The news comes as a major blow to all its stakeholders in the internet security domain, especially the ones in their nascent stage, who depended on the website to check for malicious files or cross-verify false positives that their antivirus tool might have missed. For nearly 12 years now, many such companies around the world have been using VirusTotal that specializes in running multiple virus removal or antivirus products and virus scan engines together to calculate an infection report.

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Google had acquired the website VirusTotal from its original developers, a Spanish security company, in 2012 to get a footing in the internet security sector and perhaps to promulgate the practice of safe browsing further.

Google claims that it took the harsh decision to make the service more exclusive because many security companies were freeloading on the resources while not contributing back to the database intelligence and analytics. The service is based on a model to reap mutual benefit, wherein antivirus vendors can use the virus scanning service and reciprocate their intelligence to enrich the VirusTotal analytics.

“Recently, some companies were benefiting from VirusTotal services and samples without contributing their own findings back to the community,” a VirusTotal spokesperson told the media recently. Similarly, in a blog post published on May 4, VirusTotal stated that, “For this ecosystem to work, everyone who benefits from the community also needs to give back to the community.”

The news has upset many antivirus vendors who build internet security products, not only because they are loosing access to a comprehensive, free tool to scan for viruses and malicious process, but because they believe Google’s decision will have negative ripple effects and increase malware attacks by leaps and bounds.
Most of the start-up companies that will be directly affected as a result of this change of rules are valued over $1 billion. And there are unverified media reports that claim that older internet security companies that have been loyal to VirusTotal services since many years – who might be undervalued than their start-up counterparts – lobbied for such a change.

On the other hand, the dissident voices in internet security community are crying foul. Many antivirus companies believe that Google is flexing its muscle for wrong reasons, because VirusTotal charges $80,000 per year as subscription fees for companies to access its data. Over the years, VirusTotal went from a crowd-sourced website that offered virus scanning service to a profit-making business model, and its takers were happy to pay for it. The issue of not contributing back to its intelligence repository is trivial, critics claim.

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