Tips – one Anti-Virus should be enough!

I visited another client recently that I thought would provide an ideal case study.

Hopefully, you are aware of the need for an Anti-Virus package to protect you against malicious software, hackers, identity thieves and other ne’er do wells. Well this client took security just a little too far…

He contacted me to complain that his computer was so slow as to be unusable. He would send a document to print, and it would take half an hour for the printer to spit it out. The side effect of this was that he was getting somewhat ‘click-happy’, and sending jobs to the printer 2 or 3 times thinking that it was ignoring his requests. Eventually the printer would produce 3 copies of the same document, thus wasting ink and paper. When you consider that printer ink is more expensive per litre than vintage champagne, he needed help and fast!

I arrived to find a PC that was not only slow to print, but took 5 minutes to start up and an absolute age (greater than a minute) to launch any programs. Years of experience have taught me that this is usually down to one of three things – too many programs running in the background, a hard disk that is nearly full (see my earlier post about emptying your Recycle Bin) or an underpowered PC (not enough RAM or a slow processor).

First thing I did was examine the System Tray to see what was running at startup. Sure enough, the Notification Area was crammed with a dozen or so icons! Three of these were anti-virus programs! (See a future post where I discuss the other installed detritus and what I did about it).

Now, I’m as security conscious as it gets, but I can tell you that 3 Anti-Virus programs is overkill! The client had installed Avast!, F-Secure and MalwareBytes. These are all very good Anti-Virus packages, in fact the free version of Avast! is the best free package on the market, but you certainly don’t need 3 packages. This article from Kaspersky (also one of the best free packages, and my choice for paid for packages) explains the reasons why running more than one Anti-Virus is a very bad idea, but in short:

  • They will try to kill each other. A competing antivirus program that is monitoring and sending information about your system tends to look like a virus.
  • They will fight over viruses. An antivirus program will quarantine any suspicious program to protect you, but a competing one will still detect the quarantined file and try to grab it. It will also continue to notify you, even thought your system has been made safe.
  • They will sap your power. Antivirus programs are resource hungry, and will compete for resources to carry out redundant operations.

It also turned out that although the client was running the free version of Avast!, he had paid for F-Secure and MalwareBytes. I decided therefore to uninstall Avast!, and switch off the real-time scanning of MalwareBytes. Why not just uninstall MalwareBytes? Because it’s very good for giving a second opinion. I often install and run the free version on client machines after running a paid for solution when fixing a suspected virus attack. Nine times out of ten it finds something the other one missed.

The point is, no Anti-Virus package is perfect, and malware is evolving all the time. However, if you keep your package updated, and exercise some simple Operational Security (OPSEC) while using the internet, one package is enough.

My recommendation:

Best Free Anti-Virus: Avast! has more features than most free packages, and one of the highest detection rates of any package.

Best Budget Buy: Kaspersky Anti-Virus. Not only is Kaspersky one of the cheapest paid-for products, it is also very kind to your computing resources. It’s a bit limited on features, so if you want more stuff like Parental Control and a Password Manager, consider:

Best Full-fat Product: Kaspersky Total Security. It has every feature you will ever need! I’ve also discovered that if you have an eBay account you can usually pick up a Kaspersky Total Security licence key for less than a tenner! Simply download the 30-day trial from the Kaspersky site, then buy a key from eBay when the 30 days is up.

I will write a more in-depth study of online security in the future, where I will give you some OPSEC tips, and tell you how to tell if you have a virus and what to do about it. That’s it for now, thanks for reading!