On March 2, I published a brief article entitled Is Antivirus Software a Waste of Money? in which I referenced an article by Robert McMillan who wrote that “If you asked the average security expert whether they use antivirus or not, a significant proportion of them do not.”
My earlier article is still available at http://goo.gl/07c6C
The article in this newsletter generated a number of comments but apparently that number was tiny compared to the comments that Robert McMillan received. He has now published a follow-up article that further explains the issues in some depth. He still scoffs at anti-virus and anti-malware (malevolent software) problems, writing:
"My response was that the expectations and methodology by which we measure success or failure is arbitrary and grossly inaccurate. Furthermore, I suggest that the solutions we have at our disposal are geared toward solving short-term problems designed to generate revenue for vendors and solve point-specific problems based on prevailing threats and the appetite to combat them."
In describing the shortcomings of today's anti-virus/anti-malware software, McMillan writes:
"...while we’ve got a ton of band-aids, it doesn’t make it any less painful."
He then describes a malware problem that appeared on his own web site. That has to be embarrassing for a person who wrote an article saying that anti-virus/anti-malware software is a waste of time and money. Yet, it also helped prove his main point.
McMillan writes, "So while many look at these imperfect tools as a failure because they don’t detect/prevent all attacks, imagine how many more people I may have unwittingly infected accidentally."
Details may be found in Robert McMillan's latest article at http://goo.gl/WKGpt.
My thanks to newsletter reader "Linda" for telling me about this latest article.
The item that caught my attention in Robert McMillan's latest article is that he never saw the problem on his own web site because he runs a Macintosh. In theory, Macs can be attacked by viruses and other malware designed to run on Macs but, in actual practice, such problems are rare. Most Mac owners do not run any anti-virus/anti-malware software and most will never see a problem.
For even higher levels of security, you can use a Linux system. Viruses and other malware problems are even more rare on Linux.
Some banks now recommend their customers use Linux to access online banking. Some of those banks even distribute Linux "Live CDs" that boot standard Windows PCs directly into Linux; you do not need to install any new software on your hard drive. Once you boot from the CD, your system runs Linux and you can securely access the online banking system. When finished, you remove the Linux CD, re-boot, and the PC returns to normal Windows operation.
Using Linux in your own computer helps protect the banks as well as yourself.
You can read more about secure online banking in two old articles by security expert Brian Krebs in the Washington Post at http://goo.gl/evhKA and at http://goo.gl/cg3Tw as well as in a later article by Bill Mullins (I don't know his credentials) at http://goo.gl/o3scZ.
Let's return to the original question: Is Antivirus Software a Waste of Money?
I would say "yes." First, for all Windows users, keep in mind that there is no anti-virus or anti-malware program that detects all problems. None of them are perfect. As McMillan wrote, "we’ve got a ton of band-aids..."
Next, there are a number of free anti-virus and anti-malware programs for Windows and they seem to work as well as the expensive programs. Why waste money on an expensive program when the free ones seem to work at least as well? If you already have purchased such a program, keep it and use it. After all, you have already paid for it. However, if you do not yet have an anti-virus/anti-malware program at this time, you might look for a free solution. I have written before about the free programs at http://goo.gl/6ryZc and at http://goo.gl/pSouC.
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