Biz Security: Anti-virus software is never enough

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By Chris Benson
Owner of GeeksAKnockin’ LLC,

I use the latest anti-virus software on my computer, so how did I get a virus? I hear this question asked all the time and the short answer is that anti-virus software alone is not enough to mitigate the wide array of threats that computer users face today.

Most anti-virus software works by looking at the ‘digital fingerprint’ of a file and then comparing that to a database of known viruses.  In order for your anti-virus program to detect a virus, the anti-virus company’s researchers must first acquire a sample of that virus, analyze it, develop detection and removal routines for it.  Once that is done, the company will release an update so that your anti-virus program can now detect this new virus.

The problem is that the ‘bad guys’ know how this process works and can easily overwhelm the ‘good guys’ by simply making small changes to their viruses before they release them, essentially creating a ‘new’ virus in the process.  According to Alex Alex Eckelberry, CEO of Sunbelt Software, “…up to 50,000 individual samples get submitted to our virus labs every single day. Our own malware repository is over 19 million threats and growing rapidly.”

Old and out-of-date software poses a significant risk as well.  Malware authors look for ways to exploit ‘bugs’ in software programs like Adobe Reader or Adobe Flash that would allow them to infect a computer with little or no interaction from the user.  For example, they could send you an Adobe PDF file that when opened with an older version of Adobe Reader immediately infects your computer with a virus.

The easiest way to make sure your computer is stays secure is to keep it up-to-date.  I’m a fan of Secunia’s website and their free online vulnerability scanner.  This will examine your PC and look for missing security updates and insecure software and even show you where to go to get the latest updates:  http://secunia.com/vulnerability_scanning/online/.   Finally, use caution when opening any email attachments, especially if they are unsolicited.