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Top Antivirus Myths

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to viruses and the antivirus programs meant to combat them. It is particularly important to be able to separate fact from fiction when determining how to protect yourself.

You may have some beliefs about antivirus programs that are untrue or misleading. Take a look at the following list of 6 antivirus myths and ask yourself how many of them you believed. You may find yourself needing to re-think your security strategy.

1. An Antivirus Program Is All I Need To Keep Myself Safe
An antivirus program is, indeed, a good start. However, antivirus programs are not a permission slip to do anything you want safely. High risk activities such as downloading suspicious programs, visiting illegal websites, opening strange email attachments, and the like can still leave you open to infection. No protection is 100%. If you want to make sure you're safe with any degree of certainty, you need to know what risks are out there and practice safe computing.

There are also other threats to the security of your computer. Adware, Spyware, and other forms of what is generally termed as "Malware" can wreak havoc with your system. While these are not technically "viruses", they are very powerful threats. Many antivirus programs also provide Spyware/Adware protection, but it is often recommended that you use additional programs to specifically scan for such threats as well.

2. Antivirus Programs Are Useless Because They Rely On Definitions
It's true that a virus can take advantage of the time between when it's released and when definitions are made available. However, there are a few mitigating factor. It is not true, for example, that virus definitions are the only weapon in the arsenal of an antivirus program. The best programs on the market today have sophisticated heuristics built in to their scanning engines. This means that they have some ability to look at a program and find suspicious looking code that may not have been classified yet.

And considering that only a very tiny minority of viruses out there account for the vast majority of infections, antivirus software can adapt well to infections by focusing first on the most prevalent strains. These definitions are created very quickly, to be downloaded by your next antivirus update.

Antivirus programs also often analyze running programs for suspicious behaviour. This behaviour analysis can often identify threats and block access. This can save you a lot of stress and frustration.

Virus writers are locked in a perpetual arms race with antivirus software, and have made innovations that have definitely caused headaches for antivirus software programmers. But antivirus software will adapt to new threats, and neither side can really be declared the victor. Antivirus software is still one of the best protection tools for your computer.

3. Quarantine Is Not An Effective Virus Control Method
The idea behind quarantining a computer virus is that the file is put into special storage on the computer and all access to it is denied. This is particularly useful if your antivirus software has detected a possible virus that has not yet been identified. If it turns out that the file is legitimate it can be removed from quarantine at a later date.

This is an effective method of taking a file out of circulation and making sure that it does not continue to operate. Some of the more clever viruses and malware use multiple files to operate, and as such removing a single file may not be completely effective. However, quarantining files is usually quite effective and files in quarantine generally are well guarded against re-infecting your system.

4. If Your Computer Is Running Slow, You Probably Have A Virus
This is a very common misconception. I've even heard a crazy conspiracy theory that computer salespeople are trying to cover up virus outbreaks by suggesting that the problem always stems from a lack of RAM. (Thereby getting unwitting customers to upgrade their systems but not really addressing the problem - if you can believe that)

The truth is that there are many, many reasons that a computer could be running slow. No self respecting computer specialist will say that an increase in RAM is a cure-all for computer speed. Reasons that a computer may be running slow include too many TSR programs loading on startup, a fragmented hard drive, a too-full hard drive, specific programs that require more computer power than your computer can easily provide, Spyware/Adware/Malware, and finally Viruses.

Extra RAM can be a help, especially depending on the types of programs you like to run and how much memory they take up. But before upgrading, you should try defragmenting your harddrive, deleting programs you don't use, going through all the running processes on your machine, and running virus and malware scans are all steps that can help improve speed.

Suggesting that a slow computer is necessarily the result of a virus, though, is absolutely wrong.

5. All Antivirus Software Is The Same
If that were true, selecting an antivirus software would be a very straightforward task. But it's not true. Different virus programs generate different scores on independent comparisons. They all have different options, different prices for updates, different heuristics engines. A lot of attention is focused on how well the scanners detect viruses that haven't been classified yet.

It can be tough sorting it all out, and there's a lot of competition. Most antivirus programs will offer you solid protection, especially if you don't engage in high risk behaviour. But there are important differences that you will definitely want to consider if you're making that choice.

6. As Long As I'm Careful, I Don't Need Virus Protection
If you know the risks and don't engage in reckless computing behaviour, you are to be applauded. However, there are always risks. Hackers can take advantage of security holes in Windows and common Internet programs before patches are released. There are a number of sneaky ways that your computer can be compromised. In order to be relatively secure, you absolutely need protection.


The most important factor in protecting your computer is common sense. And if you hear a claim that you think is false, do the research and find the truth. It's an important matter, and we can't let misinformation sway us when the security of our data is at stake.

Good luck, and safe computing!

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