Malware & You (and Me)

“Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window”. – Steve Wozniak

As stated in a previous post, we clean a lot of malware infected machines. How many you ask? Well, for the purpose of this post, 874. That’s how many infected systems we’ve seen, in the two year period, between September 2011 and August 2013, and on an average, those numbers reflect approximately 32% of our annual intake.

When dealing with these customers, I’m almost always asked the same questions:

  1. “How did I get this”?
  2. “I have anti virus software. Why didn’t it work?”
  3. “Which anti virus software should I be using”?

All valid, if not repetitious, questions.

Let’s start with how your machine got infected. Quick answer: I don’t know. Unless I’m watching every keystroke you make, every waking hour, I’ll probably never be certain. But rest assured, after getting into your machine, I’ll have some good ideas.  We can start with the 12 additional toolbars attached to your browser. (And if any of them are from Conduit or Babylon, I can probably stop right there). Or we can address the fact that your anti virus software expired months ago and you stopped getting updated information way back then.  Or… get my point.  There are many reasons, and the majority of them can be traced back to the user(s).

Now, assuming your anti virus software was up-to-date, and functional, then I need to revert back to the same answer that I provided to your first question….with a slight caveat.  For the most part, the people writing code and malware definitions, for anti virus software companies, can’t be proactive. That means they can’t begin to guess what the bad guys are going to do next. Instead, they are forced to react to the threats once they become known. (That’s why you get updates from your AV company.)  Unfortunately for you (and I), the consumer, in most instances, if your system is already infected with that new virus, it has also disabled many of your security processes. (Like updates).  Bottom line, there are no anti virus packages that will protect you 100% from malware/viruses. None. Nada. Zero. Zip.

And now, after that lengthy lead in, we get to the real purpose of this post: “Which anti virus should I use”?

Doesn’t matter. No, really, it doesn’t. For the average home user, it is far more important to keep your system updated, and be aware of where you go and what you allow to be downloaded, than which AV package you’re using.  Bunk you say? Well, remember those 874 infected machines I mentioned? We kept track of which AV package they were running at the time.  Now, pay attention. (DISCLAIMER: This is/was not a scientific study. So if you work for, are affiliated with, know someone, dated or stalked anyone, who works for or is affiliated with any of the AV companies I’m about to mention, please unwad your panties.) That should keep our attorney happy, so on to our results:

AVAST - 96 machines (approx. 11%)
AVG (Free or paid) - 138 machines (approx. 15.8 %)
Kaspersky - 62 machines (approx. 7.1 %)
McAfee - 147 machines (approx. 16.2%)
Microsoft - 120 machines (approx. 13.7 %)
Norton (Symantec)- 121 machines (approx. 13.8%) 
Trend Micro - 104 machines (approx. 11.9 %)
All Others (Avira, Panda, Webroot, etc) - 76 machines (approx. 8.7%)

Keep in mind that these numbers may also reflect repeat customers and those with expired or out-of-date AV packages on their machines.  We did not include customers who had no anti virus software on their machines. (Too embarrassing to even mention.)

Lastly, KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE RUNNING ON YOUR MACHINE!!!!!  For example, if you’re running McAfee software, and you get a pop up from “Internet 2014 Security”, or some such thing, telling you to “click here” because you have 692 infections on your machine, don’t do it!  Call me. You may just be number 875.

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