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Anti-virus software — a double-edged sword

By Jean-Claude Elias - Apr 27,2017 - Last updated at Apr 27,2017

You cannot not have one installed on your computer. And yet, life with an anti-virus programme on board is hard.

Living with computers in the pre-virus era, before say 1995, used to be simple, carefree. With the very software that is meant to fight the threats, life is now even more complicated, and not necessarily safer, what’s more. There are a few reasons for that.

It is to be noted here that the term “anti-virus” is used in its broad, general meaning. To go deeper in the subject, from the purely technical point of view, one would have to make the distinction between “anti-malware”, “anti-spam”, “anti-hacking”, “anti-phishing”, “antivirus” and a few other flavours of the generic name. To keep it simple this article will just use “anti-virus” to cover all these colourful variations.

First is the rather large number of antivirus software brands around. There are so many of them that the choice for those who are not particular technically minded gets really overwhelming: Kaspersky, Bitdefender, Microsoft Windows Defender, Norton Symantec, Avira, Avast, and Eset, to name a few. The first four remain the most widely used and trusted.

Some of the above brands propose a simple, free version. Only to come to you a few days or weeks after, with pop-up windows and messages, nagging, pushing you to upgrade and to pay for the higher version. Even within one given brand, the choice of the most adequate product for your personal use is complex and often impossible without the help of a tech-savvy friend, colleague or relative.

Installing, setting up, using and updating any of the above is never an easy job. Add to that the fact that most will slow down your computer and you end up hating them. Some will block an otherwise legitimate e-mail message that may be arriving in your mailbox. Others will block good, legitimate software applications from running or working correctly, without you even realising why. Others will simply prevent you from installing new software at all, from the very start, suspecting it of being malicious.

The extra burden that most antivirus products put on your computer is the reason why many consumers get the most powerful machine they can afford to buy, with substantial processing muscle and memory size, just to compensate for the technical resources that the antivirus will eat up to exist inside your computer.

There’s worse. Last year there were rumours on the web that one of the well-known antivirus makers was responsible for creating and releasing a virus that the maker itself alone was able to detect and block. There was never a way to verify these rumours and to date they remain, well, rumours. For most IT pundits and web analysts, however, they were not totally unfounded.

Can you do without antivirus at all? Certainly not, if you are using e-mail or browsing the web, which is probably the least that any of us does with a computer. Despite the hassle, the annoyance and the burden, it would be just too dangerous not to have an anti-virus installed on your machine. The threat is real and the offenders can strike any day if you leave your computer unprotected. For even with the shield, the protection is never 100 per cent.

I came to appreciate Microsoft Windows Defender with time. It is light, strong enough, and because it is made by the same company that makes Windows, the two go together rather nicely. And oh, it is legitimately free.

 

The only shortcoming of Windows Defender is that it cannot be installed on a server computer. But for the private user and the home consumer who operate a laptop or a desktop computer this is not a relevant question, understandably.

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Comments

First, anyone who defaults to Microsoft defender is a complete moron. Not sure how you managed to turn on your computer to type this awful and ill informed article. Go back to writing in depth journalism on kitten parades or something.

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