Pattern matching software that downloads the latest virus signatures to check for is useless. It checks for old, low-threat stuff that might be found out in the wild, but in most cases probably represents the state of a certain virus months earlier. The real virus threats “mutate”, that is they change their “signatures” as they go, so these giant signature files downloaded by your anti-virus software are a waste of time.
Bundling more features like email threat protection, safe web surfing software, registry monitoring and the like is a lame attempt to persuade users to keep buying more despite it’s obvious failure to do it’s main job. I mean how many people who have this software also have malware on their computer, or are part of botnets. Most, I daresay, and if I researched this type of thing I’ll wager I’d be finding that it’s more than a coincidence.
In fact the marketing of these antivirus programs is just preying on people’s affinity for superstitious behavior. People feel a great deal of anxiety about their computer systems, and buying a brand name commercial product makes them feel safer.
The adverts offer reassurance about this dangerous world, even though the world of antivirus software have very little to do with the security of your computer network or your data. Regulating network traffic and practicing safe computing habits leads to a safer computer network.
Yes, I can hear you, Mac users. My point is not to start a religious war about operating systems, but not running Windows will substantially reduce your risk. Down to practically nil. Windows is the primary target for the producers of this code, and an easier one to boot.
But no machine is safe without an operator who practices safe computing habits. Mostly, they’re very simple to understand and integrate into your daily routines.
Remember, the goal is to avoid getting malicious code on your computer, and asking sure no code is able to communicate with the outside world unless you give permission. It is an educational process — who knew calculator programs like to “phone home”?
Here’s a tips few to get you started:
1. never click on links in emails unless you expect the sender to send you the link, never click links from unknown senders
2. never install freeware or shareware, unless it’s open source AND actively being developed or maintained
3. install a program like Lil Snitch to watch ALL traffic entering and leaving your machine. Disallow all traffic, then turn things on one by one. It’s a bit time consuming, but will give you total control of your system. Don’t allow traffic if you don’t know what it is, and then see if something you really want breaks.
Safe computing habits can drastically reduce the number of incidents of “infection” you experience, but then monitoring and regulating all traffic in and out of your machine will definitely block the intended effects of this software. If you block all command and control communications then you’ve disrupted infectious code, and effectively removed yourself from any botnet you were part of.