McAfee has announced LiveSafe, a premium software and security service it believes can shore up the failing edifice of antivirus protection using a mixture of encryption, cloud storage, password management, authentication and malware defence for PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones.
LiveSafe is a shrewd all-purpose security offering that does a bit of everything, including some new things that its adoption could conceivably help to make more mainstream.
For $19.99 (or £19.99) it offers a lot in one shot but might the hefty renewal fee of $79.99 (£79.99) end up killing interest?
The traditional part is antivirus protection which can be loaded on as many devices as the users wants; supported platforms include all the obvious bases, Windows, Mac, iOS and Android with only Linux missing.
Breaking newer ground is Secure Cloud Services, a 1GB encrypted cloud repository for sensitive documents the user can authenticate to using a combination of technologies, including onetime passwords, face and voice recognition, and PINs. These will work from all platforms.
According to McAfee, this would be a good place for consumers to store their most precious “digital assets” – personal images, downloaded music and films, emails and financial data - which a company consumer survey had suggested was now valued at thousands of dollars per person.
Consumers can also manage password security using McAfee SafeKey, an encrypted online password management database which can be used to store and automate logins for multiple websites and services.
Techworld understands that this is basically a McAfee front end to the established and generally excellent LastPass system, which allows users to manage their own master password backed up by two-factor authentication for those that want it; at the time of going to press McAfee had not clarified whether the cloud storage system will offer end user key retention too.
A current limitation of LastPass is that it doesn’t directly support multifactor authentication from Google Chromebooks directly although users can fall back Google’s own Authenticator for this.
A final security layer is integration of Intel’s own on-chip lock, disable, locate and recover security features although the ability to access these depends on using specific processors or owning an Ultrabook.
“LifeSafe is the manifestation of why Intel bought McAfee,” said McAfee’s consumer vice president, Gary Davis, referring to the integration between on-chip security features and software.
McAfee had sought to make LiveSafe easy to configure through a single console that allowed devices to be enrolled using SMS messages or emails, he said.
Its philosophy was to try to protect every device using multiple security layers and to offload security where possible to the cloud.
While LiveSafe is undoubtedly innovative, the larger challenge will be to retain interest beyond year one and the attractive $20 introductory fee. Certainly the portents for $80 security software don’t look good no matter how good the technology.
In typical McAfee style, OEM partners such as Dell will ship the software on new PCs from 9 June, but the model of giving people free or low-cost products on new computers won’t help its image; to many people that sort of sales tactic could leave the product suffering from the ‘crapware’ moniker.
It would be sad fate for such an interesting security bundle to end up as something consumers experience through nagging adverts asking them to ‘buy a license’ for software whose value they don’t understand. McAfee could have its work cut out trying to head off this fate.
McAfee would not doubt point out that the fee also includes customer service and technical support, an inherently expensive and very occasionally extremely useful service some users might prefer to pay for as and when they need it.
LiveSafe will be available for general download and retail from 1 July.