McAfee rethinks consumer security service delivery

LiveSafe combines anti-malware and other security protections at low price, unlimited licensing for household computers, Macs, smartphones, tablets

McAfee, part of Intel, today announced a profound shift in how it distributes and prices its consumer security products by introducing LiveSafe, a service that combines anti-malware plus a score of other capabilities, such as anti-theft protection and a so-called "safety deposit box" in the cloud that can only be accessed by means of the user’s face or voice biometric. All at a rock-bottom price.

Mark Hocking

Mark Hocking

LiveSafe, which will first be available pre-loaded for a free 30-day trial and subscription activation in a new Dell PC as of June and more broadly retailed in July, is priced at an annual cost of $19.99 for the first year, which gives the LiveSafe buyer the right to distribute LiveSafe on any device — including mobile devices and Macs, even the Amazon Kindle Fire — they own as part of their household without limit. “It’s a special offer when you get a new PC or tablet,” says Mark Hocking, McAfee vice president of Intel partnerships.

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After the first year, the LiveSafe price would be $79.99. Hocking acknowledged that LiveSafe represents a radical shift for McAfee compared to how it has marketed anti-malware to the consumer until now, although he adds there are no plans to stop selling McAfee’s traditional anti-virus products separately with limited licensing, typically not more than three devices, as is done today.

“The goal is to re-engage the consumer,” says Hocking,  noting that LiveSafe is a suite of protections and technologies aimed at safeguarding data and identity associated with all types of computer devices, including Apple iOS and Android mobile ones, used by adults or children in a household. On PCs and Macs, LiveSafe provides parents with a “parental controls” feature for monitoring and controlling Internet surfing by children.

A LiveSafe subscription grants the user a single-account console and configuration tool to download and manage the security for an unlimited number of PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets. One innovation is the idea of the “personal locker” in the cloud where the consumer can store copies of important documents, says Hocking. This encrypted personal storage can only be opened to access documents via the face or voice biometric of the owner — who needs a camera and microphone to enroll in a one-time process and  set it up to work — so it works like a ‘safety-deposit box in the cloud,” he says. Access is through Windows 8, iOS or Android, with 1GB of cloud storage available for documents.

According to the demo from McAfee of the how the voice biometric works, the user may be asked to repeat a certain phrase before being allowed into the cloud-based storage.

LiveSafe includes several other security features, such as one for password management for encrypted storage of complex passwords that can be easily entered for use for web sites. Another LiveSafe feature is intended for use if the device is lost or stolen, giving the user a way to remotely lock, disable and remotely wipe a device or recover data off it. It also provides device encryption. The anti-theft feature will work on an Intel-based device enable for the capability and Android plans to support it as well, Hocking says.

LiveSafe is not expected to initially be available through Web-site marketing and availability. With the unlimited licensing offer behind LiveSafe, the question is how McAfee might potentially cope with fraud in which consumers claim to own hundreds of devices, for example. “We’ll deal with that problem if it comes,” says Hocking.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail: emessmer@nww.com.

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