Sunday, 27 November 2011

You Can Stop Using Your Antivirus Now

Many of us swear by our antivirus and security suite software. It’s probably one of the first software that we install after setting up Windows. We’re always hunting for better antivirus and in a country like ours, where people still haven’t fully opened to the idea of buying legit software, antivirus and security solutions are probably some of the better selling software. No one really wants to compromise on security.
This fear of computer viruses has around since the early days when DOS was the most used operating system around. I’ve also been faced with doubts, where people thought that computer viruses are organic viruses infecting computers. Fortunately, those days are long gone and people are aware that viruses and malware in general are bad for your computer and installing an antivirus or a security suite should keep your PC safe. There are plenty of security solutions in the market, each claiming to be the best there is.

The real question is whether you should be using an antivirus software in the first place. Me and some of my colleagues do not use an antivirus. I don’t remember actively used one on my PC for at least the last 15 years or so. Then, shouldn’t you be able to use your PC without one as well?

Is my PC 100 per cent secure?
There are loopholes everywhere - in operating systems and in the way most antivirus and security suites work. Malware is designed to attack specific operating systems and they eventually exploit some of the vulnerabilities in it and use loopholes around the security cover of antivirus and security suites. If that’s the case, there’s probably going to be a virus which will bypass the security suites, infect your PC and disable the security suite altogether. These are the kind of attacks for which there is almost no solution. These kind of attacks are rare, but you will be faced with them and we’ve seen this happen in the past where the best of solutions have failed. Fortunately, these occurances are extremely rare and we haven’t any major incidents over the last couple of years. In the case of some malware, very few security suites and antivirus programs can be installed on an already infected PC.

Was malware always this tame?
Viruses in the days of DOS and Pre-Windows 2000 days days would aggressively corrupt files - everything from boot loaders to documents to executables. When your PC was infected, almost all of the time, you couldn’t startup Windows and even if you managed to, you couldn’t most of the software installed on your PC. The solution would be to either reinstall your OS or use another PC, create a recovery antivirus disk (in those days, floppies) and kickstart your PC after cleaning it. The malware we see these days are tame in comparison. The most malicious ones today will send out a few mails from your e-mail accounts or message your friends from your instant messenger accounts. You’re likely to get a message from one of your friends telling you that your PC has been infected within a couple of hours or a day or so. There is also the possibility of a performance hit once your PC gets infected, but it’s nothing when you consider most people use dual-core processors with 2 GB of memory which can still manage to run fine even with a worm or virus residing in the OS.

How do you prevent your PC from getting infected?
Staying antivirus free isn’t as simple as just installing your security suite. Some of the easiest ways to get your PC infected is to use an insecure browser, download funnily named attachments on sites and mails that you get from your friends and also by connecting flash drives without scanning them. The scanning in this case will have to be done manually. It only takes a few seconds but that’s enough to tell you if there’s a worm or virus on the flash drive. A quick command prompt and DIR/AH from the root of the flash drive tells you whether you have some hidden folders and autorun files. A lot of people blindly use the Windows Autorun function without realizing that starting the Autorun function will execute the virus script on the flash drive. If you’re faced with the Autorun window, close it and choose to Explore the drive using Windows Explorer.

There are simpler, less intrusive solutions these days - a free malware scanner such as Spybot will provide some amount of malware scanning capability. Many of the security solution providers also have free online scanners which can be run once in a week to check if your PC might be infected. A change in your approach on the web is probably the best security solution there is. If you disagree, do post your opinions in the comments section

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