Are Viruses Getting Worse?

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Are Viruses Getting Worse?

Kevin R. Smith

As you might imagine, we get a lot of email. Most of it is from really nice people all around the world looking for help choosing the best antivirus software for a new computer or are looking to upgrade antivirus software to a newer version.

Although it's asked a million different ways, one of the most common questions that comes from these emails is,

"Do I really need to upgrade my antivirus software or can I just keep getting new definitions?"

There should be no question in anyone's mind that the malware creators are constantly getting smarter and are making their viruses, worms, trojans, keyloggers, and the like more clever and harder to detect. In fact, an article in ZDNet talks about this very problem and that it's getting harder to detect viruses. The article cites, Konstantin Sapronov, one of the Kaspersky antivirus lab heads is paraphrased in the article, saying,

"new methods of infiltration have also rendered it nearly impossible for users to avoid infection, even if they are careful. Seemingly clean sites can also perform backend redirection to malware-ridden sites."

It's definitely a game of cat-and-mouse where the antivirus companies are always on the prowl looking for ways to refine their tools to make them smarter, faster, and more able. Likewise, the malware writers are constantly doing their best to avoid detection.

Do I Need to Upgrade Antivirus Software?

When considering whether to keep your existing software and extend your definition subscription or to purchase new antivirus software or upgrade versions, the buying decision can be boiled down to a few questions:

  1. Are you happy with the overall performance of your current software?
  2. In other words, does it run smoothly for you or is your system slow when the software is running?

    Today's best antivirus software really should run smoothly nearly all the time. In fact, most of the time you really should barely notice it.

  3. Do you get a lot of "false positives?"
  4. These are warnings about a virus or other infection that turn out to be nothing at all. If you're getting a lot of false positives this can often lead you to disable the software even though you know better.

    If you're disabling the software frequently (and not just when you're installing new software onto your computer), the software isn't doing it's job. Plain and simple. First of all, if it's disabled, it can't do its job. Secondly, if you didn't have the false positives, you wouldn't have to disable it.

    So, if you're disabling your antivirus software, it's not doing its job.

  5. How long has it been since you purchased your current antivirus protection?
  6. As a rule of thumb, if it has been more than six months, you should look at what's new. That doesn't mean go buy new software every six months. It means be aware of what's out there.

    Sometimes, there's little more than cosmetic changes to software; other times the underlying antivirus detection engine has had significant upgrades to detect new threats, minimize false positives, run lighter, or any number of other improvements.

    When the changes are mostly cosmetic, it's usually safe to skip a version and stick with your older software; when the changes are fundamental to the way the software works, it's wise to consider an upgrade.

    This doesn't necessarily mean you should upgrade, just that you should take time every few months to see what's new and if your needs are better suited to a new version.

    Ultimately, you're responsible for your own computer's security, so chances are no one will remind you to go check out what's new in the latest antivirus software.


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