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Anti-virus, Take 2

Posted: December 28, 2008 8:08 p.m.
Updated: December 29, 2008 4:55 a.m.

As a counterpoint to Joe Messina's answers to questions regarding anti-virus and e-mail, unfortunately Joe is recommending products he also sells and services.

Neither of these products is best of breed or easy to use in the home or small business.

First understand that AV software is reactive. Norton (Symantec Corp.), for example, must first have the virus in its possession in order to create a "solution" that is then provided to you, the paying customer, and may work or not.

This can take up to 24 hours after the virus is found "in the wild."

Viruses are pretty sophisticated computer programs and can "morph" themselves so the solution you receive from your AV vendor may not protect you.

Viruses also contain a small mail transfer program, an actual e-mail program, and send themselves to everyone in your address book.

You must have an ongoing AV subscription and receive daily updates with still no guarantee that your system is protected.

A good solution I have used for 15 years without local AV protection is an intrusion-detection program. I currently use Prevx1 and used Surfin Guard for 10 years (I own no stock).

I have never had a virus. Some of these also protect against many other types of malware quite effectively.

Intrusion detection systems don't use solutions, they use behavioral monitoring and/or sandboxing. They monitor the behavior of running computer programs using a set of rules that, if broken, cause the offending program to be instantly shut down, protecting the computer system.

Many people use an intrusion detection program alongside AV. I don't, and again, I have never had a virus.

Moving on to e-mail programs, Exchange is a business program designed for companies with an IT staff who can maintain it. For home users and small businesses, I highly recommend programs like Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail and others that are not resident on your computer like Exchange.

A complete solution (other than buying a Mac) is one of the e-mail programs I mention above, an intrusion-detection program, a firewall - and there are a couple of excellent free firewalls available - and the regular use of the free scanning services available through most of the AV companies.

Check for recommendations and have happy, safe computing.


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