Anti-virus programs crucial but not foolproof - East Valley Tribune: Business

Anti-virus programs crucial but not foolproof

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Posted: Thursday, June 4, 2009 12:34 pm | Updated: 2:46 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

 Data Doctors: The sad fact of today's Internet life is that none of the anti-virus programs out there will ever protect you from 100 percent of the threats because the bad guys have the upper hand.

Q. What is your opinion of the best anti-virus program to use? - Jessica

A. With all the lurking threats on the Internet, this is one of the most common questions that we field. Ask five seasoned computer techs this question and you are likely to get five different answers, which they each will emotionally defend to the death.

The sad fact of today's Internet life is that none of the programs will ever protect you from 100 percent of the threats because the bad guys have the upper hand. They have the advantage of being able to "reverse-engineer" the protection programs that are on the market and "cook" their new attacks until they can bypass or evade the protection programs.

The other problem is that if they can get you to click on or open anything with malicious code embedded, they can disable or bypass your anti-virus program.

With that being said, you must have anti-virus software installed on Windows-based computers that are connected to the Internet. Mac users can currently get away without it, but this is likely to change as more users migrate to that side of the fence.

Windows is the most attacked operating system because it has the most users by a wide margin. If you are a hacker and want to exploit the largest number of computers, you will always choose to write malware directed at Windows users.

In my opinion, all of the major anti-virus companies offer adequate protection as long as you are constantly updating the program and are careful what you click on, download or open in e-mail and text messaging.

The real determining factor is the age of your computer more so than anything else. Older computers with slow processors can be brought to their knees with many of today's internet security packages because the code for the program was written under the assumption that your hardware is somewhat current.

I am not a big fan of any "complete internet security" offerings even on newer computers because they generally create too much "overhead" to run properly. I prefer a solid anti-virus program accompanied by a proactive anti-spyware program.

Lots of free programs exist in both the anti-virus and anti-spyware categories, but there is a reason they are free. It isn't that they don't provide good protection; it has more to do with the frequency of updates, lack of support and the active protection against the latest threats.

Most freeware programs versus the pay version of the same program are less powerful because of how they attempt to detect malicious code. Most basic programs use signature-based detection, while more sophisticated programs add behavior-based analysis to better detect newer exploits.

There isn't really a one-size-fits-all solution for every single situation, but in most cases we currently install the anti-virus/anti-spyware combination from Webroot ( If you can't wade through all the technical geek-speak when making your decision, consult an expert or someone you trust to review your specific situation for the best results.

Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the "Computer Corner" radio show, which can be heard Saturdays at noon on KTAR (92.3 FM). Readers may send questions to

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