Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Source on Anti-Virus Resources

Many computer users today are betting the security of their data on no-cost anti-virus solutions, and who can blame them? Why pay an annual fee for a traditional anti-virus utility, such as Symantec’s Norton Anti-virus or Network Associates’ McAfee Virus-Scan, when you can get the same thing for free? Computers cost enough as it is, and many users just can’t afford or justify the extra expense.
Although we don’t advocate making decisions based solely on price (the old saying that you get what you pay for often proves uncomfortably true when the price you pay is nothing), we understand the motivation to save a buck can be awfully persuasive. If you’re going to be cheap, we may as well help you do it right. The truth is that you can create a fairly effective virus barrier around your computer system if you practice safe computing techniques and take advantage of some of the Internet’s free anti-virus resources.
Actually, the free anti-virus resources located on the web do more than fight viruses. They also combat worms (destructive programs designed to propagate across a network), Trojan horses (programs that claim to be one thing while actually doing something else), intrusive hackers (hackers who use their computing skills for malicious purposes), and any other insidious pests that pose a threat to your computer system.
Free anti-virus resources come in many forms. One, they come as virus directories, which provide explanations of and remedies for many of the most common types of malicious code. Two, you’ll find them appear as web-based virus-scanning services that scour your computer’s storage devices for the presence of infections. And three, you’ll even find them present themselves as full-blown anti-virus programs you can install on your PC for complete virus protection.
The best virus directories come from recognized anti-virus software developers, including McAfee, with its Virus Information Library; Sophos, with its Virus Analyses; Symantec, with its Search And Expanded Threats page10; and Trend Micro, with its Virus Encyclopedia. The big-name anti-virus software developers also provide some of the best web-based virus-scanning services. You’ll find a detailed listing of these services in the “Free Online Virus-Scanning Services” sidebar.
But virus directories and scanning services are just helper applications. They strengthen your anti-virus arsenal, but they do not anchor it. For that, you need an installed anti-virus utility that can identify and eliminate any trace of malicious code that invades—or even attempts to invade—your system. Several free products are available for this purpose.
These free products stack up favorably when compared to commercial anti-virus utilities you can buy. Both provide constant virus surveillance, searching for the presence of malicious code in the files stored on the hard drive, as well as in the email messages and attachments that come into and go out from your system. The programs also protect the integrity of your data files by routinely comparing the current condition of each file against an archived record of the file’s technical specifications, including its size and attributes. If the program sees that one of your system files has suddenly ballooned in size from 10KB (kilobytes) to 3MB (megabytes), for instance, it will generate a warning.
In terms of usability, AVG and “AVAST! Home” offer intuitive interfaces that make it easy for the average computer user to change settings, initiate on-demand virus scans, and update virus definitions (descriptions that help anti-virus software recognize the presence of malicious code). The developers release virus updates monthly, but incremental updates are also available on a weekly basis.
The primary difference between the products is that AVG automatically cleans the infected files it finds whereas “AVAST! Home” simply deletes or isolates the infected files. But this weakness of “AVAST! Home” is one you can work around as long as you are willing to clean the infected files on your own (you should be able to find detailed removal instructions if you look up the offending virus in one of the web’s many virus directories).
Another difference relates to program availability. AVG 6.0 is available for use on all home and office computers that run a supported OS (operating system), and any version of DOS or Windows will suffice. Alternately, use of “AVAST! Home” is limited to home users who don’t use their computers for generating a profit. These qualified users must provide a name, mailing address, and email address to ALWIL Software to download and use the program. The only significant system requirement for “AVAST! Home” is that your computer runs Windows 95 or a newer OS.


Post a Comment

<< Home