Earlier today, Panda Security--publisher of Panda Antivirus and Panda Internet Security--announced the global beta release of the industry's first free cloud-based antivirus "thin-client" solution. Called Panda Cloud Antivirus, the company said that the new technology offers 50-percent less impact on PC performance when compared to installed signature-based antivirus programs. Currently the service is still in its beta stage, however consumers can download a free, "thin" client from the official website; the service will remain free to use once the service leaves the beta stage.
According to the company, the new service uses Panda's "proprietary" cloud computing technology called Collective Intelligence. Cloud computing, at least in this case, could be defined as "grid" computing, utilizing thousands, even millions, of user-based PCs to create one very big computer. Panda's technology takes advantage of its global community (consisting of "millions of users) to identify and classify malware strains. Each file received by Collective Intelligence is automatically classified in under six minutes; the servers currently receive and classify over 50,000 new samples every day. The overall result is an online, real-time database that stores the majority of signature files in a virtual "cloud" rather than places them on end-user PCs. For this reason, because of the level of end-user input, Panda decided to offer the service for free.
"Every Panda user is a sensor for new malware, sending statistical data about malware prevalence back to the cloud," the company said. "This new approach reduces bandwidth consumption on customers’ PCs and provides faster and more comprehensive up-to-date protection."
Why is this better? Because installed antivirus programs--typically from Symantec, McAfee, CA--inserts multiple programs into the operating system that intercept files at different layers and scans them with various components. This not only consumes unnecessary amounts of memory, but can bog down the CPU to the point of utter annoyance, or as Panda states, "negatively impacting performance." The Panda Cloud Antivirus client doesn't install multiple tentacles, consuming an average of 17 MB of RAM; the downloaded client itself weighs only around 18 MB, and installs around 50 MB onto the hard drive. Thus, the system provides a lightweight way to detect viruses, malware, rootkits, and heuristics in a non-intrusive way.
The biggest advantage however, is being constantly updated with the latest virus definitions from the cloud, rather than locally on the system.
“We truly believe that Panda Cloud Antivirus represents a quantum leap in protection over the traditional approach to antivirus architecture,” said Juan Santana, CEO for Panda Security. “Panda Cloud Antivirus offers consumers a truly install-and-forget solution that delivers the industry’s fastest protection against the newest malware with literally half the performance impact. We’re excited to make it available today for free, which is Panda’s way of paying back to the community and growing our Collective Intelligence network so that we can deliver even greater protection to all customers.”
According to Pedro Bustamante, senior research adviser at Panda Security, the Cloud Antivirus program will continue to work even if the PC isn't connected to the Internet. "The model we've implemented is to break down the traditional antivirus to client and server, so when the user is not connected they keep a local cache copy of Collective Intelligence, including detections for what Collective Intelligence sees is spreading through the community," he told CNET. He also stated that the service would remain in beta for a while as it builds its user client base, however he hopes that it will leave the beta stage by the end of the summer.
Currently Panda Cloud Antivirus can be used on Windows XP and Windows Vista platforms, and will also be compatible with Windows 7 when the operating system eventually ships. Come, join the Collective. Resistance is futile.