Anti-virus Software Recommendations

We often get clients asking us for a recommendation on anti-virus software. This occurred last week when one of our clients was infected with a scareware trojan (again).  He couldn’t download anything off the web because the trojan was blocking it and was standing at the anti-virus software rack at the local Office Max. He had been using AVG on his new computer, which didn’t block the scareware.

So let’s talk about antimalware protection for your home office or small business. First, there are Internet security suites that can contain a firewall, anti-virus, antimalware, anti-phishing, anti-spam, parental control, identity theft protection, backup software and any number of other features which you may or may not need.

Then there is dedicated anti-virus/antispyware software that specializes in protecting your computer from a virus/worm/trojan.There are also free versions (for personal use only) and paid versions of some anti-virus software.  Some paid versions cover up to 3 computers or have discounts for more than one computer. But ANY anti-virus software is not 100% effective. It pays to have a good backup solution just in case…

Here is a chart of the effectiveness of 60 different antivirus programs created during a study by Virus Bulletin. Click on the chart to get a larger image.

Let’s go over you options by least paranoid to most paranoid of getting infected.

There are free versions of AVG, Avast!, Avira and last but not least, Microsoft Security Essentials (MSSE). I’ve got an old laptop that I only use for email and light web browsing that I’ve been using AVG Free on, but after the episode with our client I’m going to switch to Avast (which I like because it scans during a reboot, not while Windows is operating) or try out MSSE.

The reports I’ve read on MSSE show that the first scan can take 18-24 hours, but then it monitors your computer full time and subsequent scans are much shorter. It’s far superior to the old Windows Defender, also.

The next step up is what we use for our business computers – our ‘production machines’. We use the ZoneAlarm Security Suite (by CheckPoint Software).  It’s highly rated and not very expensive (although the price has gone up since we first bought it).

But any of the higher rated security suites (see chart) will work for you. It all depends on the price and the ease of use. I especially like ZoneAlarm because you can shut the damned thing off if you need to and you can dig down and control the firewall for each program on your computer.

For those of you who are REALLY paranoid about getting infected you need a two stage solution – an Internet security suite running all the time, plus one or two dedicated anti-virus programs that just scan once a week or so.

You don’t want to have more than one anti-virus program running in the background all the time – it can cause all sorts of problems. The two most often used additional programs I’ve seen are MalwareBytes AntiMalware (MBAM) and SuperAntiSpyware, both of which have free editions.

Remember, just set these up to scan once per week, not run all the time, but you shouldn’t have to shut down your security suite while these other programs are scanning.

So now you have three options to protect your computer(s) from all the nasties on the Internet.