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Living without antivirus software

[adsense:728x15:5447199818]Ok, I'll admit it. I've been living dangerously for the last several years.

To be blunt: I refused to install any kind of antivirus or personal firewall software on most of my computers (but see Update 1/1/2012, below.) This included a Windows XP Home system that was used by my children as a web surfing / email / game system. I suffered zero infections during this time. (The only time I ever suffered a malware infection was before, when I did rely on Norton Antivirus to protect the kids' computer.)

Why do I refuse to use these massively popular widely-used products? Simple. I am convinced that in my case, they may cause more harm than good, and that they foster a false sense of security - leading some users to engage in riskier behavior.

Further, antivirus software is almost always behind the curve - by definition, the antivirus people are playing catch-up with the malware writers. It's a good living for them, but I choose not to contribute to it.

As a software developer, I cannot afford any downtime due to buggy software, and yes - antivirus software has bugs. Not long ago, one major antivirus package ran amok, causing widespread damage by deleting harmless user data and programs.

Another preinstalled software mop-up operation

I had the 'honor' of rescuing yet another victim of a pre-installed software nightmare. A new co-worker was working with his notebook (a Hewlett-Packard, recent vintage, less than a year old with Vista Home Basic installed).

The complaint? Minimum five (yes, FIVE) minute boot time from power-on to desktop interaction.

After a cursory examination, I found that it wasn't a hardware problem, nor was it due to memory limitations: the system had 512MB RAM, Vista was using just over 300MB with no other applications running (yes, that's a lot, but this is Vista, after all).

Another Anti-virus related SNAFU

In the news: another SNAFU related to malfunctioning anti-virus software. See: Symantec breaks Chinese XP systems due to a false positive.

How to evaluate a web site

I found this page over on the UC Berkeley Library site describing a set of steps to use in evaulating web pages - how to determine whether the information on the page should be trusted. The guide offers a list of suggested questions to ask, and the implications associated with the answer to those questions.

This can help you develop a critical eye when visiting a web page.

Antivirus software runs wild; damages user files.

Yes, Virginia, anti-virus software has bugs too!

For over five hours Friday, McAfee's anti-virus software erroneously flagged hundreds of legitimate executables as a malicious virus, leading some customers to quarantine or delete the offending files and render applications such as Microsoft Excel inoperative.

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