Antivirus- False Sense of Security

The Internet has become a part of us.  Better yet, the Internet has become a major part of us.  As someone who has been in the field for nearly 15 years, I am still amazed at how the entire world is inter-connected through the Internet and provides us an easy way to communicate and grow our businesses.  With that said, the Internet also gives the bad people of the world a straight channel to the good people.  By nature, we always steer around the “bad part of town”, but the Internet doesn’t allow us to steer clear.  Forget your ADT Security System that you have on all your doors and windows because they are coming straight across telephone poles and right into that little DSL or Cable modem you have sitting on the shelf. There is little antivirus can do to keep this from happening.


“Protecting” ourselves

Many would say, install Antivirus on your computers and stop worrying.  This would be the equivalent of living in the bad part of town and using a little hook to latch your screen door to keep intruders out.  I’ll start off by providing a little truth.  Antivirus software does not protect you.  It does not keep you safe.  It is a total false sense of security.  Nearly 70% of the time Antivirus finds something and tells you that it has removed it, it is incorrect.  Viruses, Trojans, Adware, and Spyware all make several changes to your PC.

Your Antivirus will tell you that it has deleted your malicious software if it is able to remove a single piece of it.  The question is, did it remove it from memory, your temp files, your registry, other files that were infected?  Probably not.  How do you know you aren’t already infected even though you haven’t seen any virus alerts?  A “full system scan” is not going to do the trick.  Here are a few things that might help you feel a little safer.

How do I know if I am safe?

First things first.  I’m not a mechanic.  The only way I know that my car is safe to drive and maintained properly is to take it to a trustworthy mechanic to tell me what maintenance my car needs.  This works the same with technology.  Although we all know how to “drive” a computer, doesn’t mean that we should all feel safe trying to maintain our own computers.  After all, aren’t you entering credit cards in when you shop online?  Do you log into your banking?  Even if you don’t do either of those mentioned, imagine what could happen if someone stole your Facebook or Twitter password and used your account for illegal activity?

I recommend taking your computer, at least quarterly, to someone qualified to confirm everything is ok on your system.  An expert can tell you if it is sending abnormal Internet traffic out to malicious servers behind the scenes.  Hackers often use infected computers for <insert illegal activity here>.  An expert can tell you if your computer is being accessed by someone or if it is sending out Internet traffic that isn’t being triggered by you.  These things can only be accomplished by looking deep under the hood.  No, we aren’t talking about your friend’s cousin who knows how to work on computers.  Are you willing to put your financial data, social media accounts, and online identity in his hands?

How much should I spend?

Try not to waste money on paid antivirus and use free antivirus.  There is not a piece of software out there that is worth paying for to protect your computer.  Keep your $59 dollars a year and use well known free antivirus by vendors such as Microsoft’s Security Essentials, or AVG.   Remember, Antivirus will catch “some” malicious activity but will not catch everything, so there is no sense in paying for it.  I can tell you that the major brands of antivirus are not any better than the two free ones mentioned.

How do I know If I am infected?

Third, use common sense.  If your computer is “slower” than it was last year, it very well likely is infected.  Not all infections are the same.  Some infections just want to show you ads so that you buy certain products.  Others will log every single keystroke on your computer and upload it to the people who sent you the virus in the first place.  Worst case, your virus infection is causing your computer to be used for illegal activities such as allowing your computer to host a website containing illegal activity.  Yes, it happens.

Its not always a virus at  fault?

Finally, make sure that your network is locked down.  Can someone sit outside or use a $35 powerful external WiFi antenna to get onto your network?  Just because your wireless is password protected, do you know if it is secured with the latest password encryption technology?  These are all things to be considered.

I’ll end with this.  2013 was one of the worst years ever for security breaches, both residentially and in the business enterprise.  Internet fraud is at an all time high.  If you have a computer that is connected to the internet with a broadband connection, you need to be pro-active instead of re-active when an incident occurs.