Do antivirus companies create computer viruses?
This has surely been a question every one of us has thought about at some point. The theory that an anti-virus company would perpetuate their own virus and then come come up with a solution to contain that virus to boost the sales of their products sounds like a possible scenario. It is not hard to consider this might be really happening when we consider the cloud of doubt over anti-virus companies – such as Kaspersky’s alleged links with the Russian government. While no anti-virus company has so far been proven to carry out such an activity, it is not that hard to understand why this theory cannot be true.
The basic idea behind this theory, is that an anti-virus company will make profits if its able to create and then block virus attacks. Firstly, there are already plenty of viruses and trojans out there that justify a person’s need to buy an anti-virus software and if at all, companies felt that more viruses were needed to increase sales, we would be hearing of multiple virus attacks on MacBooks or iPhones considering the few number of malware attacks that these platforms currently face.
Secondly, viruses, trojans and bots of today are not as simple to produce. While we do not realize it, a modern day virus takes hundreds of hours of programming if not more. Based on the source code of previous viruses, experts estimate that around 1-3 months of programming effort is needed to create the viruses- if not more. The CEO of Emsisoft has revealed in a blog post, that the company adds around 30,000 – 50,000 new malware signatures each day to their product database. In a month, this number usually reaches half a million and the total number has crossed 13 million at the time of writing this.
If such a company had to create its own virus, it would first need to invest in programmers to create a new virus plus invest time and resources to maintain the virus so that it remains relevant for long enough for the company to make a profit. When we take the details of the previous paragraph into consideration, all this investment would do, is to build 1 out of 30,000 new viruses created each day. This data in itself shows that it makes no financial sense for an anti-virus company to create their own viruses.
Lack of evidence
Now that we have made the lack of financial gain evident, we consider the reason why this question has never been proven. While it might not be that difficult for a company to create a new virus, it will be difficult for them to protect themselves from that virus without raising suspicion. At least some users of their own anti-virus products will have to get infected before the company can release updates to protect them from the virus. That directly leads to unhappy customers. On the other hand, imagine the questions that will be raised if only one product is able to defend against a virus while all others fail.
Any virus that affects a large number of people will be examined by security experts and almost every major detected virus has been traced back to its creators. Not only will a company lose its reputation and customers if a virus was traced back to them, it would also make it defenseless against the lawsuits that will be filed against it. In conclusion, the disadvantages of creating their own viruses are far greater than the benefits they can provide.