Viruses, worms and trojan horses still attack computers &mdash they come in emails, they arrive completely unexpectedly in unpatched Windows hole, and they arrive via "drive-by downloads." Anti-virus programs continue to battle viruses. They now attack worms, trojan horses and phishing attacks, too.
It is actually amazing in today’s world, but there are still people who don’t run an anti-virus program on their computer. I often run into people whose common complaint is that "the computer is running slowly." Most of the time, the computer has picked up some spyware or trojans that are causing the problems. However, sometimes, the problem is that the computer has multiple virus infections in addition to spyware, trojans and automatic downloaders.
Occasionally, the computer is up-to-date on its Windows Updates, Office Updates and Anti-Virus software. The virus might have gotten in before the anti-virus vendor got the signature in the updates. Other times, though, the computer isn’t running an anti-virus program. I’ve also seen computers with old (e.g., 1998) versions of Norton Antivirus running all the time, but without current virus signatures — in other words, providing no real protection. Other times, the computer owner has the antivirus program, but it is not running.
One of the problems is that malware (viruses, spyware, trojans, and other mean programs) can sometimes turn off a firewall or an anti-virus program. That’s one of the reasons Windows XP Service Pack 2 installs a monitoring system for your firewall and anti-virus.
You need to be doing your Windows Updates and Microsoft Office Updates, but there is now a better alternative from Microsoft — Microsoft Updates. Go to Windows Update and click on the link for Microsoft Updates. The new system will update all of your Microsoft products in one step.
You also need to have a working, up-to-date anti-virus program. If you’ve got an anti-virus program and it’s not working, then take your computer to the shop. Many of today’s viruses and other malware know how to disable your anti-virus program, so that could be a very good indication that you’ve gotten hold of something nasty.
Some of these is also available in anti-virus-only versions, such as:
There are two well-known anti-virus programs that are free for personal use, but which require purchased licenses when used for non-home use or commercial use. These are “AVG free” from Grisoft (www.grisoft.com) and “avast!” from ALWIL Software (www.avast.com).
If you aren’t going to purchase an anti-virus program, for economic or other reasons, please use a free one. However, be aware that sometimes "you get what you pay for." Anti-virus companies often make their virus signature updates available for their paid products before they make them available for free ones. Sometimes, that may be several days beforehand — days when you are exposed to infection from the virus.
At one time, I used Norton Ant-Virus on all of my computers. I gradually became frustrated with slow releases of anti-virus signature updates — sometimes as long as a week between updates, even if I checked with the “LiveUpdate” feature. As luck would have it, about the same time my former employer changed to a rather obscure anti-virus program called NOD32.
The final breaking point was when they negotiated a special price for employees for the purchase of 1, 2 or 3 year subscriptions to program updates and virus signatures (NOD32’s subscriptions include both the usual anti-virus signatures and also the uncommon program updates across a multi-year subscription). Most other anti-virus companies will sell an extended signature subscription, but stop program updates with the expiration of your initial license period.
NOD32 is small, fast and frequently updated. NOD32 routinely gave me automatic daily updates of virus signatures. The program is also configurable for you choice of whether to automatically download program updates or to limit them to manual downloads..
Now, my choice for my computers and those of my family is VIPRE Antivirus Premium, which includes antivirus, antispyware/antiadware, and firewall. It’s compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7, including 64-bit versions of each.
First, let me say that the online anti-virus scanners that I will mention do both identification of infections and removal of infections. I may not mention your favorite site — that might be intentional, if it doesn’t remove infections but only identifies them, or it might be unintentional (i.e., I might not be familiar with that site). Also, remember that on-line scanners are a backup method to check how well your current anti-virus program is doing. They are not a substitute for an anti-virus program. Anti-virus programs have components that run all the time to prevent infections. An on-line scanner can only identify an infection that’s already on your computer.
For a long time, my favorite online anti-virus scanners have been those offered by Trend Micro and Panda Software. Both seem equally good, and both have used Active-X programs to do their actual work. That meant that you had to use Internet Explorer in order to use those scanners.
Guess what? A lot of people have been moving away from Internet Explorer to Mozilla Firefox and Opera because of the security risks of using I.E. and its Active-X programs and “drive-by downloads.”
Recognizing this browser trend (pun intended), Trend Micro Europe has released a Java-based online anti-virus scanner. It’s fast, compact and a "class act." Trend Micro Europe states on its website that the new Java-based HouseCall will support the following browsers: Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape (6+), Mozilla (1+), Firefox (all) and Opera (7.5+) and operating systems Windows 9x, NT, 2k, XP, Linux and Solaris!
Trend Micro’s US site has changed away from Active-X to Java also, but requires separate download of a preparatory program. I haven’t confirmed that it works ok with Firefox, but I suspect that it does. However, it misidentifies Mozilla Firefox as “Netscape,” which is not very reassuring (although they have a common heritage — the term “Mozilla”).
If you click on the HackerCheck tab, you can scan your computer for Internet-accessable services while the anti-virus scan is being done.
Panda Software’s Panda Activescan still uses Active-X and requires Internet Explorer. It doesn’t work with any browser other than Internet Explorer.