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Why is IT trying to ruin my life? Part 2: anti-virus

Dan Wons

Dan Wons

This post was written by Dan Wons, Vice President for Network & Infrastructure at Cision US. It is part 2 of a 3-part series.

 Anti-virus (AV) software is used to protect your PC from malware – which can be defined as any malicious software designed to unknowingly infect a users PC in the form of a virus, worm, trojan, spyware, adware, etc.  You can learn more on Wikipedia than you ever probably wanted to about the ills that lurk on the Internet.  Any user of an infected PC knows the result of this software is a huge headache.  If you are lucky, the computer can be cleaned (if not by your AV software than another tool).  Those less fortunate generally need their PC rebuilt from scratch. 

As you know this is no small undertaking: what with backing up your personal data, reinstalling the operating system, reinstalling all your applications, restoring your data to the PC, etc.  Hours of lost computer time at home is annoying.  At work it means lost productivity (on top of the frustration and annoyance) for both the victim and the IT support personnel handling the repair …none of which is good.

As with patching, usually AV is provided to PCs at work in a centralized, managed solution.  At home, you are left to fend for yourself.  Sometimes PCs come with free AV software, but in a trial version.  The problem with these trial versions is that if you don’t pay for the subscription after the trial period expires they stop getting updates and they quickly become useless.  So you have to decide if you want to purchase a well-known solution or try a free one.  There are a few decent, free AV products available on the Internet; however, Microsoft recently released their free AV product called “Microsoft Security Essentials”.  You can read more about that here or download it here

There are three important things to remember about using AV: 

• It can make your PC run slower as it proactively scans files and programs as they are used.  But you still need it.
• Unless it gets updated definition files on a regular basis, the software will become out-of-date and ineffective at protecting you from the malware that have not yet been invented.  At a minimum, your AV product should check for updates daily.
• Even though the AV program scans each program and file as it loads into memory, you should still schedule routine scans of the entire file system as the writers of viruses have gotten better at stashing their code in hidden, dormant files on your PC.  Frequency of scans is debatable, but a weekly scan is a good rule-of-thumb.  We have seen a dramatic decrease in the amount malware infestations at work since we implemented daily scans.

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