Intro To Protecting Your Computer From Viruses

Ever wonder what’s really going on under all of that operating system? Under all the glossy veneer of Windows and the internet, a true battle is being waged: a battle for your computer. Every day you pass through a cloud of worms, viruses, and spyware as you surf the internet and do your daily tasks. Much of the time, you avoid contracting something terrible, but occasionally, you let something in.

In several parts, we will explain the steps necessary to protect your computer. We will use layman’s terms, and spell out for you both the best methods to take, and the ones to avoid….

(Photo: Maulleigh)

This installment deals with antivirus protection. Antivirus protection is sort of the first line of defense. Decades old, and known by almost every computer user, shockingly antivirus protection is lacking in as many as 80% of home PCs. Imagine that. 80%! That’s a huge number of unprotected PCs, even at the most basic level.

Here are some steps you can take to make sure that your antivirus protection is installed, working properly, and protecting you from harm.

1. Many new computers come with antivirus protection already installed. Relying on this is a huge, and potentially costly, mistake.

The protection ranges from 30 days to a year, on average. But most people don’t realize that antivirus protection is not as simple as buying a package and installing it; you are paying for a SUBSCRIPTION, not the SOFTWARE.

It is essential that you renew the subscription when it expires, or purchase alternative software more to your liking. Failing to do so leaves you more unprotected than if you had no protection at all, since you will think you are safe, when you’re really not.

2. If one is good, two are better, right? Wrong.

Antivirus programs often act in similar ways as viruses, writing to system files, moving about the computer, etc. Norton Antivirus could potentially pick up AVG Free Edition as a virus, for example, or parts of it. As a general rule, installing two antivirus programs negates the benefits of either one. So buy one and stick to it.

3. Which antivirus is best? There is much debate on this subject. For our personal opinion, we like NOD32 because it involves what is known as heuristics. Essentially, it looks at computer code, not just with the standard definitions, but for similarities to known

A better way of explaining this is our own human process of identifying new words. When we are reading a book, and come across a new word, we don’t already have a definition for it. This is similar to an antivirus coming across a new virus. In both cases, we (or the antivirus) don’t understand what it is that we just found. Norton Antivirus will simply ignore the new code since it doesn’t know what it is. This is bad.

Heuristics, on the other hand, is similar to us as humans applying our knowledge of the language, as well as the context of the sentence, to identifying the new word (without using a dictionary). NOD32 looks at its existing definitions as well as similarities in the code to known viruses, and tries to identify variants that it does not know yet for sure. This leads to better identification and helps to stop viruses that were previously unknown before they spread and infect our systems.

Note that NOD32 is not perfect. But it is tons better than Norton, AVG, or McAfee.

4. But what about AVG Free Edition? Isn’t that just as good?

Nope. We wouldn’t put AVG Free Edition on a Windows Millennium PC. It’s not that it is bad (though it is). It’s that it gives you a false sense of security and doesn’t catch everything (or close to everything). AVG Free Edition is designed to show you that AVG is able to protect you, thereby encouraging you to buy the full version, which offers more protection. Remember that you get what you pay for.

5. The antivirus scanner should be run once, if not twice, a week.

We know, this is a pain since we have to stop whatever we’re doing while it runs. Schedule it for 3 AM, then, and leave the computer on those nights. Even though the antivirus is always scanning, it’s better to make it scan everything at once. For one, it will scan more than its routine every-day scanning. Also, it will scan every file, while the “routine” scanner doesn’t do that every day.

6. Avoid “security suites.”

We know it’s tempting to buy Norton Security XYZ Hyperactive Edition. But first, your local tech guy will hate you (Norton tends to take over your system). And second, remember that niche products tend to perform better. That is, an antivirus company is probably best at antivirus, and not so great at firewall. Combining a variety of products is just as effective (if not more so) than the previously mentioned security package. Plus, many of the things in the security package you won’t need (like the firewall, but we’ll get to that in another edition).

Following these tips will help protect your system from harm caused by viruses.

Next up we will delve into the world of malware, a.k.a. spyware, adware, etc. — BRANDON SAVAGE

Brandon Savage has worked as a technician for University of the Pacific fixing student machines and now runs his own tech service, Savage Support.


Edit Your Comment

  1. mikyrok says:

    Also, for spyware Spybot Search & Destroy is probably the best free tool out there.

  2. OnceWasCool says:

    First I have heard about Free AVG not working!! It has constantly preformed without error for some time. Also, if you are using Windows Millennium PC that is a sign that you are in the dark. Windows Millennium was a mistake.

    I recommend:
    Free AVG
    Spybot Search and Destroy
    and a firewall like ZoneAlarm or PC Tools Firewall

  3. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    I agree, that’s an awfully harsh hit on AVG Free Edition. It’s been stellar for me, far less of a system hog than Norton or McAfee ever were, and the price is definitely right.

  4. donnie5 says:

    We use NOD32 in a school environment and love it. I have to admit, it is great, and it is low on the resource use as well, you wont even notice it running.

  5. Mike says:

    Right, so I guess I get to be the first one to say it:

    Thank god I use Macs!


  6. MDT says:

    Just to clarify…this war is only being waged under the hood of our computer if you are working on a Windows PC. Macs do not typically have these problems or require these types of computer-slowing, performance reducing, system draining web-condoms. This isn’t hype, it is just the truth.

    — MDT

  7. lpranal says:

    I’ll second the statement that AVG Free doesn’t catch everything- i’ve already had a really nasty virus slip one past the goalie.

    So far, Avast! has been pretty solid, catching many things after I switched that AVG missed

  8. cynon says:

    Been using AVG on several computers for years and never had a single thing slip through…

  9. gundark says:

    Mike and MDT. Good points both of you. Lets write our own tutorial.
    Step 1:
    Buy a mac

    Step 2:
    Oh, wait, there is no step 2.

    This isn’t meant to be arrogant, but it is the truth. I installed antivirus software on my mac about 5 years ago. The only thing it ever did for me was bug me every 6 months to update it. That took exactly 1 year for me to delete from my system and I have never looked back.

  10. SonicPhoenix says:

    Another thing that one should do to protect one’s computer is avoid using Internet Explorer for anything other than eCommerce sites and sites that you absolutely trust not to screw you. Even sites that you trust can sometimes accidentally allow banner ads that can mess with your computer. Switch to Firefox or Opera and you’ll be much less susceptible to a lot of the nasty stuff out there on the web.

  11. faust1200 says:

    Nothing catches everything. “You get what you pay for.” Not true when talking about anti-viruses. You can pay out the ass for crappy anti-virus. AVG is good, I’m not sure where Brandon gets his data from. Avast is good too.

  12. TVarmy says:

    What do you guys think about ClamWin Anti Virus? I use it because it’s free and open source. Am I putting false hope into it?

  13. Trai_Dep says:

    “You get what you pay for”: Buy a Mac.

  14. SpyMaster says:

    People just can’t stand it when they hear this…but it’s the truth:
    Buy a Macintosh. Problem solved.
    It really is that easy.

  15. lazyazz says:

    Free AVG not working??? Windows Millennium??? Where in the world do you get this stuff.

  16. Tallanvor says:

    No Anti-Virus software will provide 100% protection from viruses. I got tired of paying for virus protection, so I started using AVG. Is it necessarily the best? No, but it’s better than a lot of the options out there, and I’ve never had a problem.

    And for you Mac users who keep claiming that you don’t need to worry about viruses, grow up. I remember working with Macs in schools as long as 15 years ago and even back then they used virus scanners because viruses existed for Macs.

  17. Android8675 says:

    I’ve heard good things about NOD32, but I have to disagree with some statements like, “3. Which antivirus is best? There is much debate on this subject. For our personal opinion, we like NOD32 because it involves what is known as heuristics.”

    Every Anti virus program I’ve come across uses Heuristic scanning. So this is silly. Then there’s this doosy: “We wouldn’t put AVG Free Edition on our Windows Millennium PC. It’s not that it is bad (though it is). It’s that it gives you a false sense of security and doesn’t catch everything (or close to everything).”

    I’d say on AVERAGE, most anti-virus programs catch about 80% of all viruses that get executed on your system. Now when I say executed, I mean that you downloaded a virus from say “Limewire” for example, you run the file, it’s a virus, 8 out of 10 times, your anti-virus program will catch and stop it. Why it may not catch it, I think the main reason is because the virus is “new” or has never been caught in the wild.

    While Heuristic scanning does help catch unknown viruses, it’s pretty much hit or miss.

    Some of the best advice I’ve gotten from my IT buddies has been, MAKE BACKUPS OF YOUR DATA THAT YOU CARE ABOUT, and don’t open files you don’t know where they came from.

    I run AVG because it’s a quiet program. It caught a virus for me once (I was sure it was a virus at the time) and it missed another which turned out to be one of the Sony AudioCD Rootkits, at the time it was a new thing and I don’t think any anti-virus would of caught it. (AVG will catch it now, I keep the audioCD for testing)

    AVG is Free, and if you add knowledge + prevention = priceless.

    Don’t give into the hype, do your own reasearch and decide for yourself. AVG works for me. It might not work for you, and the only GOOD thing about viruses now a days, is they aren’t as common as adware. Viruses try to destroy your system, and Adware tries to make you do stuff you don’t want too. I guess Malware would be viruses that try to keep your system running and steal your passwords, etc. I’m going to Wikipedia.

  18. XianZhuXuande says:

    I’ll echo the sentiments of this article. Nod32 is by far the finest anti-virus program out there. In addition to awesome detection and prevention, it has a small footprint (that is, it doesn’t take up a lot of RAM or CPU), plays very well with other programs, and is not prone to corruption or uninstallation problems (like Norton and McAfee). I remove viruses and spyware as part of my living, and Nod32 is the program installed on my computers at home.

    @mikeyrock: Spybot is a great tool as far as free anti-spyware goes, but the spyware market has come to a point where small development companies simply cannot keep up. People shouldn’t reply on free anti-spyware anymore.

  19. @Tallanvor: I remember working with Macs in schools as long as 15 years ago and even back then they used virus scanners because viruses existed for Macs.

    And we’re supposed to trust you because the last time you touched a Mac was 15 years ago?

    There are no viruses, trojans, etc. in the wild for Mac OS X. Period. End of story. No extra software or subscriptions required.

  20. OnceWasCool says:
  21. JShore says:

    I’ve used many antivirus apps including: AVG, Avast, Comodo, PC Tools, Norton, NOD 32, AntiVir, BitDefender, and others but my favorite seems to be Kaspersky. It has the best detection rate of viruses and is easy on system resources – plus is works well with Vista.

  22. lazyazz says:

    @oncewascool I know what WinME is, my point is that it is 7 years old, a piece of crap even in 2k, and unsupported. If this guy is comparing software that is 7 years old (or from 7 years ago) something is wrong.

  23. Android8675 says:

    @CACajun: haha, i’m all for Macs, but yer silly.

  24. mac-phisto says:

    @Mike, MDT, & gundark: careful. i’m not a mac basher & i def. feel better cruising the net on my imac over my frankenstein xp machine. but don’t think you’re immune. there have already been worms written for os x (such as renapo: ) & there is much concern that the “herd immunity” will disappear quickly if mac users aren’t a little more vigilant about protecting their systems.

    as the sysadmin writes in this article, “We want to be ready for the first big Macintosh virus — because it will come. Some day, somebody will say ‘I am going to create a headline and write a virus for Mac'” –

    this is my favorite – mac users too smug over security –

    the articles are a bit old, but the message rings true. the idea is take precautions now so that when immunity disappears, it will not spread like wildfire like the old unix bugs & the windows bugs. there’s no harm in running a virus sweep – even if you are on arguably the safest os on the market.

  25. cynon says:

    Hey Mac people. Here’s a thought for you guys: Some of us use our computers for more than pretty graphics, spread sheets and iWhatevers. Some of us use them for programming (yes, I know you can develop on a mac — however, I’m going to assume that developing software for a M$ machine might be a little difficult, not to mention the pretty anemic Mac software market) and some of us like to game (and no, I’m not blowing more money on a crappy console or even a good one). Love to see you play the just released games on a Mac. I guess you can’t huh?

    So please, get off your high horses.

    For me? I use Windoze for gaming. Everything else? It’s Linux.

    Oh yeah, and I can build a far more powerful computer and update my hardware when I want if I stick to the PC platform.

  26. Android8675 says:

    @lazyazz: The article is saying, AVG is so “Bad” I wouldn’t even bother to install it on Windows ME. Which we all know is the biggest piece of tripe that it’s just an insult.

    It’s not a comparison, read the article again.

  27. OnceWasCool says:

    @lazyazz: Sorry, My bad! I misunderstood..

  28. DCKiwi says:

    Norton has a well deserved but outdated reputation for hogging system resources. The latest version (Norton Internet Security 2007) and the new Norton 360 product (which includes online backup) are much, much leaner and faster than their predecessors. Symantec rewrote them from the ground up with performance in mind.

  29. lazyazz says:

    @Android8675 Huh? You might want to read it again.

  30. mac-phisto says:

    @CaliforniaCajun: There are no viruses, trojans, etc. in the wild for Mac OS X. Period. E&#822n&#822d&#822 &#822o&#822f&#822 &#822s&#822t&#822o&#822r&#822y&#822.&#822…yet.

  31. enm4r says:

    One could buy a Mac, or one could just use the internet and know what they’re doing. In the last decade of owning a PC, I’ve had as many viruses, trojans, spyware, etc on this as I had on all of the G5s in the computer lab I managed…ZERO.

    Legitimately, I don’t know how people can infect their computers so thoroughly. I could understand the odd spyware here and there, the stupid AIM link that the 14 year old clicked on from her friend, etc, but there really is no reason why so many MS users are infected. I don’t have any antivirus software and I don’t plan on it. I realize that when it comes to these thing I’m the “tech friend” and in all senses a power user, but the problem no one wants to talk about are users no educating themselves to make smart decisions.

  32. stummies27 says:

    Truthfully, there is no better way for a user to protect themself than to just know what to look for. I have not had an Anti-Virus program, nor spyware removal tool installed for years. In those several years I only got 1 virus. I do know of people that have had active subscriptions to Norton, or used AVG and would still call me to come clean the virus out of their system.

    If the end-user doesn’t take precautions, and clicks every window they see, no program will keep them safe.

  33. lazyazz says:

    Wait till you have kids.

  34. fak3r says:

    How does ClamAV for Windows stand up against AVG? I have it running on my Mom’s system, and she hasn’t had any issues, but she’s far from a power user. Also, another way of dealing with Viruses besides buying a Mac is not buying anything; install Linux. No, it’s not for everyone, but it’s for many more people than you think, especially now with distros like Ubuntu’s 7.04.

    My Mom doesn’t know it, but she’s dual booting, and she can do everything she needs to do in Linux, while not having to worry about viruses, adware, etc. I plan on letting her try it out by teaching her how to start it (at the Grub menu press the down arrow and press enter), and then if she doesn’t like it she can just boot normally. If you don’t want to go to that trouble install Linux on a flashdrive or run it from a LiveCD – you may not have to worry about AVG working well or not.


  35. fak3r says:

    @trai_dep: …or don’t buy anything, just install Linux.

  36. doppler says:

    That Windows ME line was a joke.

    (I hope)

  37. tedyc03 says:

    Some clarification (I’m the one who wrote the article):

    The reference to Millenium edition was meant as sarcasm. I haven’t run ME EVER in my life. I never would.

    As for being a bit harsh on AVG, those comments are probably correct. My complaints with AVG is that it is a resource hog and that the company that writes AVG doesn’t seem to keep up very fast with the newest viruses. Having worked with people who do security-related work, and play with virus samples, in test after test, NOD32, followed by Symantec, were the fastest to detect and clean a newly discovered virus time after time. AVG was typically the slowest to adopt new definitions and in fact sometimes didn’t even catch new, dangerous viruses. That is why I recommend NOD32 or Symantec.

    Next time instead of attacking a particular antivirus I’ll just recommend particular ones instead.

  38. Buran says:

    @lazyazz: You let a kid use an unsafe computer yet you don’t let your kid drive your car.

    Don’t let kids get at anything that kids can destroy. If they want a computer, give them one that doesn’t have an Internet connection, or if it must, give them one that doesn’t allow IE to run or connect to the net.

  39. Buran says:

    @cynon: Hey, not everyone cares about games. But my recommendation is still to get a Mac; you can run most all the software you could need on it all day long — and then dualboot into windows to run a game.

  40. orielbean says:

    Firefox browser has some VERY handy tools that make it so much more superior to IE. IE has tab browsing now, and some pop blockers in it, but the Firefox plugins are amazing.

    1. Goto Download the browser and install it.
    2. Open the program, goto the Tools menu and select Addons.
    3. Click on the Get More Extensions link at the bottom of the little popup window.
    4. At the Extension site, search for and install the following plugins : Adblock Plus, Adblock Filterset, NoScript.

    Adblock will automagically understand when a site is pushing ads in your face and block them. You won’t even see the frame half the time… It is my favorite ever, and you can rightclick on the ads it misses to catch those as well. It even blocks those stupid Myspace ads! (not that I use Myspace…)

    NoScript is far more powerful. It blocks all sorts of popups and javascripts in webpages. The default setting is that each time you go to a new site, you have to add it to your “whitelist” of approved sites; otherwise they don’t function properly. This is a good thing – when weird or phishing sites overlay themselves on the legit ones, you have to manually approve them. This is one of my favorite extensions as well.

    Firefox helps you browse in a more safe manner than IE. It isn’t perfect, but it is much much better.

  41. shdwsclan says:


    Step 1
    Buy a mac

    Step 2
    Get you identity stolen because your computer illiterate and dont know about SWF and Jar viruses, but especially SWF.[Flash animations]

    Macs are great if your job doesnt require graphic design or a computer…..
    If you just need a web appliance…or whatnot….

    By the way, symantec makes antivirus software for mac….hmmm i wonder why…..

    And as for graphic design….yea right….if you run photoshop or illustrator on a mac all it does is that it crashes left and right….a really poor work computer indeed…

    And the worst part about mac os is that there is a thing called a soft crash, where the program crashes, but doesnt tell you anything about it… your actually second guessing yourself if you actually opened the program….

    Its actually REALLY easy to break a mac
    Here are some tips
    1. Insert a mini-cd into the cd drive
    2. Go to….in safari
    3. Go to sites with flash ads thinking its safe since you thing there are no mac viruses.

    There even many funny programs to hack unprotected pcs….like my favorite is kill all apps, which kills the finder too, so you’ll by scratching your head, why are you starting at the blue screen with everything gone….if you get access to a machine, add it to the startup processes, and it will play havoc on most mac users since they are computer illiterate and never actually seen the terminal…

    So as you can see, no computer is safe, even linux has an antivirus……

    Also, routers stop most hackers dead in their tracks…

  42. @Buy-A-Mac People: The only reason there are little to none viruses for Macs is BECAUSE most people and businesses don’t use them.

    Therefore, encouraging everyone to buy a Mac for virus protect defeats the purpose.

  43. lazyazz says:

    Okay Dr. Spock, Thanks for the parenting advice.

  44. lazyazz says:

    And who said I don’t let my kids drive? 6 yr olds have excellent response time.

  45. The Bigger Unit says:

    My god, WHY WHY WHY do Mac people insist on telling everyone to buy a Mac?? Why do you care? It’s like a freaking cult. Stop it! “Buy a Mac”, “Macs don’t have these problems”, it’s like a dumb parrot. Get over it…not everyone wants a damned Mac. 90% of the world uses PCs. Why can’t you Mac people just be happy with your 10%, and let it be, instead of hooting and hollering every time a story like this comes around? WHOOO CAAAAARRRES.

  46. viriiman says:

    @shdwsclan: “By the way, Symantec makes anti-virus software for mac….hmmm i wonder why…..”

    Honestly, it’s so that you don’t get a PC virus from a user and then transfer it to another user. Look at the databases for mac anti-virus programs, and you’ll find that they’re primarily composed of definitions for Windows viruses.

  47. lazyazz says:

    If you want a resource hog try F Secure. Along with the system crashes and the 5 viruses/trojans (that Free AVG caught), have not had a problem since I switched.

  48. yzerman says:

    Buying a Mac does not solve this problem.

    If everyone bought a mac and the numbers switched to 90% mac 10% pc.. where do you think all the programers of virus’s trojens and spyware would spend their time and resources attacking?

    Thats right.. a MAC and you can bet your ass that the MAC would be just as compromised and hole filled that Windows is and that Antivirus software and spyware / firewall software would quickly be put to good use.

    So get off your high horses and talk to the people with the real numbers like its your OS saving you.. no its the lack of actually targets that saves you!

  49. @The Nature Boy: My god, WHY WHY WHY do Mac people insist on telling everyone to buy a Mac??

    Because honestly, we’re tired of having to come over to your desk and fix your computer after it got stuffed up with a virus again.

  50. mac-phisto says:

    @shdwsclan: Also, routers stop most hackers dead in their tracks…uhh…watch out for port scans & the notorious port 113.

  51. grizzman says:

    As was mentioned above, please people, don’t buy a Mac. I like not having to read any of the above posts that make my head hurt from technical anti-virus jargon. Just keep telling the world that Mac users are delusional and Macs crash often and really do get viruses.

    A 12 year Mac user who’s never had to deal with a virus and hasn’t had his computer crash since he upgraded to OS X three years ago.

  52. joopiter says:

    @shdwsclan: Macs are great if your job doesn’t require graphic design? The hell? My job title is graphic designer. I work at a magazine. I wouldn’t use anything but a Mac to do my job. The ads that we receive from agencies and clients are created primarily on Macs. In the ten years I’ve been doing my job, my computer has never “broken” because of Illustrator or Photoshop. In fact, in those ten years, the ad files we’ve received that have been the most completely unusable and f-ed up were found to be created on a PC by design illiterate people who think they know what they’re doing.

    I agree with everyone who says that Macs don’t have viruses because they’re not a big enough target, but before you start slamming Macs get your damn facts straight.

    BTW, I do have a anti-virus software on my computer. And I’ve traveled to both ebay and flash-heavy websites. In Safari. No virus yet.

    That’s my fuel to the flame war. Now back to my job. Working onn my mac. In graphic design. Without problems.

  53. Tallanvor says:

    @tedyc03: When you’re choosing virus protection, you also have to consider who will be using the computer.

    If I had to choose AV software for a business, it wouldn’t be free software. –nod32 may be very good software (personally, I’ve only worked with AV, Symantec, and BitDefender, none of which I’m a fan of), but for home users, there are other things to take into consideration…

    1) Most AV software these days is subscription based. Is the user going to bother to renew the subscription? If not, then you’re probably better off installing the best free software available since at least it won’t expire.

    2) How knowledgeable is the user? People who minimize their risks can probably get away with free software.

    3) How easy is the software to use? You can give them the best AV software available, but if they can’t figure out what to do when a virus is detected, then it’s only going to increase the number of phone calls you get (I’m definitely not arguing for any specific product here).

    It’s all a matter of what the best compromise is.

  54. SOhp101 says:

    @oncewascool: I agree… except for Zonealarm… I’ve been hearing about some privacy issues they’ve been having.

  55. John Stracke says:

    @Tallanvor: Groan. OK, some history: there were viruses on DOS back in the 1980s. There were also viruses on Macs, and they were easier to write, because Mac applications (and the System, and everything else) kept code in resources, which meant you could just paste in a resource with the new code, without having to try to parse the application or whatever. So there was a flurry of viruses for Mac; but they all worked via the Toolbox’s resource APIs. So, John Norstad wrote Disinfectant, which patched the Toolbox to lock down the resource fork (except for legitimate apps like ResEdit and installers and such). End of problem; Macs became much safer than PCs…until cross-platform Microsoft Office viruses came along.

  56. Buran says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: And all the challenges that challenge people to write viruses for them … and come up with nothing, or exploits that require a ridiculous amount of convergent circumstances, don’t mean anything? Plus think of all the notoriety you’d get if you wrote an exploit that actually could infect Macs like Windows machines — and no one’s done it.

    While your line of reasoning has been put up time and time again, it just doesn’t hold up.

  57. Framling says:

    You know, there aren’t a lot of new viruses coming out for my OS, either.


    Hell, we don’t even have half the market share OSX gets these days.

  58. The Bigger Unit says:

    @CaliforniaCajun: You’re tired of coming over to my desk to fix my computer? Umm, wrong. I’m competent. I can fix my own computer if it were to get a virus. Thus far, I’ve never had to do this because I’m not an imbecile when it comes to simply taking (preventative) care of my computer.

  59. thrillhouse says:


    And as for graphic design….yea right….if you run photoshop or illustrator on a mac all it does is that it crashes left and right….a really poor work computer indeed…

    Nah, not so much the fault of the Mac, just a matter of crappy Adobe software being… crap. Illustrator fails left and right for me too, but its on a PC.

    Macs are safe…-er… for now. They just aren’t in the crosshairs of the hackers and virus coders. They just don’t have teams of people working 24/7 to poke and prod and exploit every little issue with the OS.

  60. MDT says:

    @The Nature Boy:

    Forget Mac-cultism – What is so difficult about simply acknowledging that when it comes to virus security the Mac platform has an ENORMOUS, CRYSTAL CLEAR, UNASSAILABLE advantage over any windows-based system?

    In what way is pointing out that Macs don’t suffer from widespread virus problems a getting on a high horse? Is a bird getting on a high horse when it flies? Macs don’t solve every frustrating problem the average computer user experiences but dealing with viruses is certainly one they’ve got under control at the present time.

    It is true that, all security issues being equal, Mac’s relatively small marketshare make it a poor vector for malicious code.

    But of course, Apple’s edge is based on more than that, as several recent attempts to find successful Mac exploits have shown. Would-be hackers have either had to utilize third party hardware to wheedle their way in or attack systems without updated security data.

    — MDT

  61. WNW says:

    AntiVirus fanboys are some of the most rabid of the species.

    In all honesty using smart computing practices is going to serve you better in the long run than fighing over what AV software is the best.

    Tips you might want to post would be using Firefox instead of IE (NoScript is a great plugin) and not opening any email attachments EVER unless you can send a message to the person in the “reply to:” to confirm they actually sent it. Also, most AV companies have a no-charge suspected virus submission processes. If you think you have something viral send it there. Did you just download a new cd-key generator and think it might be sketchy? Submit it and find out.

    This is a pretty awful article, it reads like a biased, unsourced software review from some minimum wage Geek Squader. You can do better Consumerist.

  62. rodeobob says:

    A few salient points:

    1.) Most AV systems use hueristics to some degree or another. It’s not a selling point for any one program.

    2.) Several AV companies offer a free virus scan via java web-applet. (I’m thinking of TrendMicro’s web scanner, though there are others) This is useful if you think your system is infected, because many virii’s first action is to disable or limit active virus scanners. If you’re a fan of redudant systems, using a web-based applet scanner also has the advantage of being able to scan your system without significantly interacting with your existing AV.

    3.) Remember that viruses aren’t the only problems out there. Malware and spyware aren’t viruses as far as most software is concerned, and won’t be detected, even though they will slow down your system performance. The advantage of “security suite” programs is that they will protect against multiple categories of bad software, and not just virii.

    4.) Don’t be fooled by “security through obscurity”. Yes, Macs are safer than PCs, but that’s because they’re a smaller portion of the market. Same goes for using the basic Firefox browser, or Opera instead of IE, or using Thunderbird instead of Outlook. Yes, you’re safer… for now. However, a significant portion of systems are infected not by buffer overruns or scripting vulnerability but by ‘social engineering’. (meaning the user intentionally double-clicks/installs a piece of software)

  63. kalmakazee says:

    I have tried just about every Antivirus program out there and I have to say that i truly believe Avast Antivirus is the best one out there. I had a huge Virus not long ago and the only Antivirus program that was able to catch it was Avast. I recommended Avast to all my friends and they all love it as well.

    Some GREAT software I would recommend would be….

    1)Avast Antivirus
    2)Adaware SE
    3)Spybot Search & Destroy
    4)Spyware Blaster
    5)Bazooka Scanner

  64. JustThisGuy says:

    To the Mac Cult:

    To use a cliche: we’re choking on the smug. Get over yourselves. There were known, easily exploitable security vulnerabilities that could have been easily abused; a lot of mac users are just lucky that nice, non-Apple security researchers found them first. Admittedly, there aren’t nearly as many vulnerabilities in a mac system as there are in a windows system, but they do exist, and new ones have/will pop(ped) up.

    That said: I have a mac. It’s an old iBook running 10.3. I love the little guy, and I adore OS X. But I run all my resource intensive apps on a PC running Linux. Never had a virus, mostly due to smart computing. But the main reason I stick with the thing is because it’s cost-effective; I’ve been upgrading parts on the same machine for the past five years. Is my method practical for the average consumer? No, probably not. But I’d argue that the price that Apple charges for a comparatively underpowered consumer level computer isn’t really practical either.

    To each their own. But really: shut up. Remember: rabid fanboyism is endemic to the shallow, the petty, and the irrationally-inclined. This goes to the few linux fanboys up there as well.

  65. And all the challenges that challenge people to write viruses for them … and come up with nothing, or exploits that require a ridiculous amount of convergent circumstances, don’t mean anything?

    @Buran: Nope.

    Who cares about some dumb challenge when they can hack into a company’s system and gain access to sensitive information? The people capable of doing it don’t care. It just isn’t worth it to attack Macs…yet.

  66. AcidReign says:

    …..I use AVG. I’ve taken steps to secure my network, such as a hardware firewall, draconian email attachment rules, and forbidding the use of Microsoft Internet Explorer. (I’ve deleted all the shortcuts to it, except for Windows Update; and I made Firefox the default browser on all systems.) And so, I don’t feel I need as big an attack dog to defend my stuff. Keeping the viruses, adware and trojans out to begin with, is the best defense.

    …..If you have young children or newbies on your machines, I highly recommend getting up to speed on user accounts and policies. Letting a 4-year-old have the power to install stuff is a recipe for disaster. We learned that with Windows 95…

  67. Trai_Dep says:

    PC Guys –

    The Mac OS isn’t less attacked by viruses because it’s pretty, made from puppy-dog kisses and sunlight. It’s more secure because it’s designed, from ground up, to be more resistant. Firewall included and active out of the box. Permissions properly set. Proper UNIX code undergirding the beast. I’m SURE that many, many sleazebags have tried to hack OS X. It’d be Everest. It’s too much of a bitch, so they can’t then move on to Windows.

    Like everything else, Macs simply work better. It’s not smugness, it’s simple fact.

    Trojan Horses don’t count: you can’t protect yourself from stupidity, which is what it is if someone actively downloads something, approves the download warning you it’s an application (as Admin), then installs it. All not knowing the source of the damned thing.

    On a side note: the “The Mac has no games” wailing is about a decade out of date. All the major games are available on the Mac that are on PC, except for the Valve ones. Maybe Rockstar too. That’s not even counting rebooting under Windows on your Intel Mac and playing a couple rounds.

    Kias are GREAT cars for their money, but their owners only deserve to be laughed at if they compare them to Acuras. Same with PC vs Mac.

  68. SpyMaster says:

    What I really really love is the hysterical (yes hysterical…as in almost crazy) and wild-eyed responses from frustrated Windows users who feel it is their duty to tell lies about the Macintosh. Very funny, you guys…keep it up while your crappy Windows software runs slower and slower while it’s busily performing zombie work for its spam-masters and stealing your identities…even as you sit here making up stories about Macintosh viruses. It’s all way too funny.

  69. LAGirl says:

    nothin’ hotter than computer geeks gettin’ their panties in a wad!

  70. Buran says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: I guess you haven’t noticed that the challenges have money attached. People who write viruses do it for the money.

  71. alterboy says:

    OK! too all the Mac fanboys. The only reason you don’t get viruses and stuff like that is because they aren’t written for macs too often because more people in the world use windows and that causes the programs to have wider distribution. It’s not because macs are inherently more secure. Also industries that use macs almost exclusively (music and film) don’t normally have their work machines connected to the internet for fear of viruses shutting down the entire operation. So a good portion of macs aren’t even available to malware. BTW this was written on a Mac. I’ve used Macs for 4 years. I also use windows and prefer it. Just get your noses out of the air and say something with substance instead of playground rants. Flame on!

  72. orchid777 says:

    @orielbean: thanks for the info.

  73. Slytherin says:

    Wow…arguing about computers and their software. Is nothing sacred from futile arguing nowadays?

  74. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Yeah, because Macs never have any problems…well, except for stuff like this. Hmm, a whole website devoted to troubleshooting Mac problems. Who knew?

    Geez,’re as bad as the Ford vs. Chevy crowd. I have both Mac’s and PC’s, and they both suck in their own special ways.

  75. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Sorry…my crappy PC didn’t automatically read my thoughts and underline my hyperlink.

  76. Buran says:

    @The Nature Boy: Uh, because “don’t use something that’s full of known security holes and is otherwise crap” is a perfectly valid fix?

    If you consistently bought widgets from brand X and they kept breaking, why would you keep going back to brand X when you were told that brand Y didn’t have the issues you had trouble with?

    Screaming “I’m NOT LISTENING!!!!” doesn’t fix problems. Actually avoiding the problems does.

  77. informer says:

    To all the people running AVG saying “I’ve runn it for years and nothing has slipped by”: if something slipped by, how would you know?

    Anyway, this site does pretty thorough anti-virus testing:

    NOD32 does score very well quite consistently. Although, like many others in this thread, owning a Mac is my solution to this problem.

  78. pc-vip says:

    Just weighing in:

    Avast!, and Spybot.

    Jeff Yablon

  79. There was a study done last year that determined that Kapersky worked the best… and that AOL’s free antivirus (believe it or not) was merely a branded version of said product.

    Oh, and gundark — the assertion that Macs aren’t prone to infection (a message I agree with) might not be arrogant, but “Step 2: Oh, wait, there is no step 2” kinda is.

  80. Sorry, here’s the actual AOL antivirus link:

  81. olegna says:

    Haha, that’s the first time I’ve heard the phrase “Windows Millenium” in many years.

    Re. Macs: Not that I care too much, but do any of these Mac Ideologues wonder why Mac has SECURITY UPDATES and that so much anti-snark software is offered for Macs. Hmmmmmmmm. . .

    I’ve been using AVG, but have been skpetical that it’s getting everything because it’s free and offers a paid version so there must be something the free version isn’t doing, right?

    So thanks for the advice, that NOD software looks mighty tastee!

    PS – Norton blows. You have to download a Norton removal tool to remove it. Software that doesn’t have an “Uninstall” button sucks and should be exterminated from the world, period.

  82. zibby says:

    Good Lord, do people really have this much of themselves invested in a computer brand? Not every discussion needs to become, “meow meow love Mac make me meow better meow meow.” It’s just a piece of equipment.

    More on the subject: Avoiding suites isn’t the worst advice – particularly if the suite in question is McAfee, which might ruin your PC all on its own – but I’ve had good luck with ZoneAlarm, now that they incorporate the Kapersky stuff for AV work.

  83. mac-phisto says:

    @trai_dep: “The Mac has no games” wailing is about a decade out of date. All the major games are available on the Mac that are on PC, except for the Valve ones. Maybe Rockstar too. That’s not even counting rebooting under Windows on your Intel Mac and playing a couple rounds.

    no, you’re way off here. you can add electronic arts, microsoft game studios (obvious) to your list, & sony’s game division (scea?)

    bungie (marathon – best game ever) & blizzard are the only 2 cross-platform developers i can think of off-hand. so, if all you care about playing is WoW & halo, i guess your safe.

    joysitq wrote an article addressing this last year:
    Apple’s official Mac gaming solution: Windows

  84. Trai_Dep says:

    Hey, Mac, how’s it going –

    Myst, Sims, Roller Coaster & Zoo Tycoons, Prey, Civ IV, Gothic, all the WWII FPSs I can think of, Doom, Freedom Force, Wolfenstein, Warcraft, WoW, NeverWinter Nights, Halo, Star Wars, Second Life, Harry Potter, Tony Hawk, True Crime, Lord of the Rings, Command & Conquor, Age of Empires are some games and franchises that roll off the top of my head. Tons of educational stuff too.

    Publishers include Blizzard, Activision, Maxis, Bungie (as you’ve noted), etc. Activision and other developers don’t list Mac games on their site since they’re ported over by Aspyr – check out their site for a better representation:

    See also:

    There’s a ton of games available. There will always be one or two (I’m particularly bummed about Valve since their attention to detail and general awesomeness makes them an ideal partner for Apple, but they’ve never pursued the Mac market (sob)).

    Except for cherry-picking onesies and twosies, the Mac has 95% of the gaming market represented. Not perfect, but not bad either.

    The main point being that it’s another cannard that rabid PC users use that, once examined, crumbles to dust.

  85. Fission-Mailed says:

    Saying a Mac is a gaming machine, to me sounds like All mimsy were the borogove. Yes the Mac can play games, but you see its not really an economical choice to do so. The Best card you can get with a mac sub 2000 dollars is a Geforce 7600 GT. Yeah thats not really going to cut it, especially when i can probably get a PC with a 8800GTX for around the same price. I also like how most of the games you mentioned are 4 years old. I want to be able to play Oblivion, Battlefield 2, C&C3 now, not wait until 6 months later. Macs may be very practical machines, but they are definitely not gaming machines (I love OSX and the general aesthetics of macs).

    Also what exactly do you have against windows machines, there is no point of being an elitist over Operating Systems.

  86. ShadowFalls says:

    The Mac game choices are hardly meaningful, by the time they get to it anyways, they are years old and you could have or already were playing them on the PC. The definite advantage of a Mac though, is with the hardware being used based around the Intel Core 2 Duo line and their boot camp software, it is easy to load up an OS like Windows XP and play some real meaningful games.

  87. benko29 says:

    just to pipe in wrt the mac/pc thing.
    i don’t think it’s so much that mac users are on a ‘high horse’. it’s that as soon as someone in a PC related thread mentions ‘mac’, all the hardcore PC people get really defensive.
    frankly, i’m tired of mac users being bashed as arrogant, or as users who don’t really need to do anything important with their machines. it’s offensive, and bashing doesn’t get anyone anywhere. especially on the internet. you don’t need to validate your 1337ness by expressing your hate for macs all the time.

  88. zibby says:

    @Benko: Benko, that’s well put and I agree. Trouble is that Macs never would have come up in this thread if some Mac user hadn’t started in with the whole, I-am-superior-through-consumer-goods bit. That had nothing to do with anything, but the the bait was taken. Oh well.

    Since the subject came up, I will say that Macs are a hell of a lot better for gaming than they were, but yes, not the “economical” choice. Personally, I threw the price difference into the 8800 GTX.

  89. njtrout says:

    Please review the current product certification for anti-virus programs at Without debate, ICSA Labs Certification verifies that the products detect 100% of viruses “in-the-wild”.

    On the Mac issue, although it is true that currently there are few known viruses that can infect a Mac it is a real world problem that Mac uses can share infected files such as infected .jpg files with PC users. The capability to share files continues to be a vector for spreading computer viruses. Anti-virus protection on a Mac is necessary and in a corporate environment it should be requirement for connecting to the corporate network.