The Best Antivirus Protection: Common Sense

It’s been said that a little common sense goes a long way. I’d tend to agree, especially where your computer is concerned.

For years, most Windows-based computers have shipped with some sort of antivirus software preloaded–usually a 60 day trial of Norton or some other name-brand application. Some users will take the software as-is and either let their protection expire or pony up the $30-$40 for a full license after the trial period. Other users, perhaps those more experienced, will remove the preloaded antivirus and install their own favorite app. Various products include: McAffee, Kaspersky, Vipre, NOD32, AVG, and so on. Microsoft even has it’s own free security suite called Security Essentials. But the fact of the matter is: you may not even need antivirus!

Before you fall over in shock and disbelief, let me clarify that statement. A good antivirus suite is almost always better than none at all, but there are so many poor performers out there that you should make sure you use a product that won’t noticeably degrade your computer’s performance or take up valuable resources. Two I recommend checking out are Sunbelt’s Vipre and ESET’s NOD32. If you have a limited budget for malware protection, try AVG’s latest offering.

Back on topic, your best defense against the bad guys is a little common sense–whenever you’re using your computer. Follow these guidelines, and most likely, you can kiss that security suite goodbye for good!

  • Surf with a purpose: If you’re on the Internet just to mess around or pass the time, you’re probably not helping matters in the least. While watching videos on YouTube is innocuous enough, searching for “funny videos” on Google and clicking a random result could be disastrous. Many humor-related sites are loaded with spyware and adware just waiting to install themselves on an unsuspecting victim’s computer. Usually some sort of user-interaction is required for the install to complete, but not in all cases. While this is just one example of such a possibility, there are many other categories of sites known for their less-than-benevolent actions. Only visit sites you know and trust.
  • Secure your browser: If you’re still using Internet Explorer 6 or 7, Firefox 3.0, Safari 3, or Chrome 1, your first task should be to upgrade your browser. Using a browser with known security flaws or outdated code can be one of the biggest security risks to your system. Whichever browser you choose, visit its vendor website for more information. For any browser, it’s smart to disable Java support since malware often uses Java to begin its installation. If you’re using Mozilla’s Firefox, install Adblock Plus to hide and disable nearly 100% of the advertisements you’d normally see.
  • Use caution with email, Facebook, and Twitter: Attacks based on a concept dubbed “social engineering” are becoming far more common. Emails, Facebook messages, Twitter updates, Instant Messages, and just about any other form of online communication may promise lucrative returns if you’ll just click a link, provide some personal information, or allow an application to access your profile. Be extremely wary of these types of messages. They’re almost always 100% fake and generally come prepared to hack your account, give someone remote control of your computer, or even steal your identity! Just delete or close the message and move on.
  • Avoid the suspicious: Ultimately, avoiding, or at least thoroughly researching anything suspicious looking will save you time, money, and big headaches down the road. Your motto should be: “If in doubt, don’t.” You’ll thank yourself later. Also, be a good web citizen by reporting spam to your ISP and letting social networks know when you spot suspicious activity on their site. You just might prevent someone else from triggering a disaster!

Finally, if you’re a Mac user, don’t assume you’re immune from attack. Any predator capable of hacking a Windows-based PC can do the same to an Apple OS X-based machine. The idea that you are invulnerable is a myth. Also, take the same level of care while social networking. Web Applications like Facebook don’t depend on your operating system and an attack is easy to stumble into on any platform.

Note: I am an expert in the computing industry and have been working sans antivirus protection for over 4 years without incident. Your computing safety is always your responsibility. Whether or not you run antivirus or antimalware software is your decision, but before attempting to do without, ensure you fully understand the risks and ramifications of doing so. I am not responsible for any damage you incur after reading this article. Proceed at your own risk!

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  • Ken Dine

    You are running windose without A/V and you seriously claim you’re not infected based solely upon your safe surfing habits? Without running A/V, you know you’re not infected, how?

    Ya, right – some expert!

    Thanks to cross-site Scripting, SQL Injection and HTTP Response Splitting, MANY seemingly innocuous webpages can now infect your PC, including hacked government websites.

    Google “SQL injection” and then go read some articles and educate yourself:

    Start with this article:

    “New data shows website hacks continue to grow unabated:”

    Ken Dine

  • During the writing of this article, I used Trend-Micro’s Housecall antivirus to scan all of my Windows machines for threats. None were found.

    While drive-by attacks on the web are certainly a possibility, many of these sites will be identified by modern browser security implementations.

    A/V software generally won’t protect you against cross-site scripting or HTTP response splitting. SQL Injection has more to do with server attacks than client-side threats. A/V software won’t help in any of these cases since simple XSS or SQL Injection can’t install software on your computer directly. These types of attacks would be more compromising to an individual’s online identity than it would be to their computer.

    I have done quite a bit of research on the subject 🙂