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Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Virus’

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What is a unified antivirus engine?

What's a unified antivirus engine?

Today's Internet threats come in all flavors including computer viruses, phishing attacks, spam, spyware, adware, worms, and Trojans. Many of these threats are blending. For example, spam messages may also contain malicious codes or point you to a malicious website.

Because of the evolving nature of Internet threats, many antivirus software developers are moving toward unified antivirus engines. These unified engines blend the various technologies used to combat each type of threat into a single tool. Instead of buying and installing separate antivirus and antispyware applications, you can now buy Internet security software powered by a unified antivirus engine. One application can now handle viruses, spyware, spam, phishing attacks, and more.

The advantages of using a product powered by a unified antivirus engine are numerous. Among the most obvious advantages are that you only have one application to manage, one set of database definitions to download, and less potential for conflict between different security applications. In addition, depending on the product you select, a bundled security solution is often less expensive than buying separate antivirus, anti-spam, antispyware, and other tools.

Less obvious advantages include decreased memory requirements and smaller update sizes compared to multiple update packages. When you have multiple applications that must launch at start up and remain running all the time, your system's performance suffers because each running application takes up its fair share of resources including memory. By having fewer applications running, your system will have more resources available and perform better.

However, not all unified antivirus solutions are created equal. It's important to evaluate these security suites carefully just as you would with each individual component. How often is the database containing all of the definitions updated? How extensive is this database? How easy is the software to use? Are the controls customizable? Does the software have the features you need?

I have two favorite products: ParetoLogic AntiVirus Plus and Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security. Because I don't need two similar applications, I currently use the Trend Micro product. Not because it's any better, it simply has a few additional features that are currently important to me including a firewall, network controls, wireless controls, and home network protection. If you don't need these additional features, the ParetoLogic product is an excellent choice - why pay for features you don't need?

Unified antivirus engines don't necessarily compromise results for the sake of convenience. Most of the major software developers have blended their existing products into a "super engine" that can handle it all. For example, you'll get the same antivirus technology and database definitions with a unified antivirus product as if you had purchased the standalone antivirus product. You also get the added protection of spyware and malware protection.

In addition to the ParetoLogic and Trend Micro all-in-one security solutions, other leading contenders using a unified approach include:

  • McAfee Internet Security Suite
  • Microsoft OneCare
  • Norton Internet Security
  • Kaspersky Internet Security
  • BitDefender Total Security
  • Panda Internet Security

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Is my Antivirus Software actually working?

How do you know your antivirus is actually working?

Here's a handy little trick to see if your antivirus program works. It's called the EICAR virus test. This is a dummy virus in the form text file that is recognized by most antivirus programs as a computer virus. You can either download EICAR files from or you can copy and paste the following text into a text document and create your own test file.

X5O!P%@AP[4\PZX54(P^)7CC)7}$EICAR-STANDARD-ANTIVIRUS-TEST-FILE!$H+H* has four different test files that you can download including zipped archives so that you can test your antivirus program's capabilities of detecting viruses in compressed archives.

EICAR stands for the European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research. They designed this test as a safe way for computer users to test their antivirus programs to ensure that the programs are actually working.

While I have no doubt that my antivirus program is working, I wanted to see exactly how the EICAR test file worked. I tested my antivirus application and it passed with flying colors. First, I attempted to go to the website where the file is hosted and was prevented from doing so by my antivirus program. Next, I tried to download the zipped file and received a warning that a virus had been found even before I had a chance to open the file.


I also created my own text file and attempted to email it to myself. The email never arrived! That was odd. I was expecting some sort of virus found warning. But lo and behold, when I checked my antivirus software's log files, there it was. The program had successfully blocked the email from leaving my computer. No wonder I never received the email.

Next, I ran a virus scan on my hard drive and sure enough, my antivirus software found and quarantined the file.

Okay, that's the good news; you can test your antivirus software to see if it's working using this test file. However, is your antivirus software working as it should? The EICAR test file is an older file so most virus scanners will have the information related to it in their database of virus patterns. But what if your software hasn't been updated recently? Without current virus definitions, your antivirus software won't work as it should against new threats.

Antivirus software can become out of date in several ways. Your subscription could have lapsed, you may not be updating frequently enough, or malware could have disabled automatic updating. Do yourself a favor and double check your automatic updates settings. Is your subscription current? If not, renew your license and update your virus definitions ASAP. Do you have automatic updates enabled? If not, enable this critical feature. Are updates scheduled to occur at least daily? If not, change the schedule to accommodate daily updates. You may even be able to set hourly updates depending on your software.

Testing your antivirus software is easy enough using the EICAR test. You'll be able to see that you've installed a capable antivirus solution. But even more important than testing the application to prove that it's working properly is updating it so that it's working to its fullest potential.

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Can multiple antivirus programs run at the same time?

Can multiple anti virus software run at the same time?

You can have multiple antivirus applications on your computer; however, you may run into conflicts if more than one antivirus program is set up for active monitoring. In addition to conflicts such as computer errors, I recommend against having multiple antivirus programs in your computer's start up folder because system performance can suffer.

For example, by default, all antivirus programs are set up to start automatically whenever your computer boots up. This is by design. After all, you want protection all the time without having to remember to launch your virus solution, right? When two or more antivirus programs are loaded at start up each one takes up its fair share of your computer's resources. With multiple running programs, fewer resources are available for other processes. This results in a sluggish PC.

Virus scans and real time monitoring are two different things. Running a virus scan involves looking at the contents of the disk and the computer's memory for viruses while real time monitoring is a process where the antivirus application is constantly scanning new downloads.

Having multiple real time monitors constantly scanning downloaded files gobbles up resources and can cause numerous computer errors including out of memory errors and system slowdowns.

While it's true that each antivirus software developer has its own unique database of virus definitions and it may make sense to use several in an attempt to catch as many threats as possible, it's not necessary to run them all at once.

Here's a way that you can have it both ways.

First, decide which antivirus solution will be your primary application and which one will be used from time to time as added protection against computer viruses that your main application may have missed. For the main application, choose an antivirus program that features an extensive database of virus definitions and receives automatic updates frequently. If you've already installed your main antivirus program, you won't need to do anything further with it.

For your backup applications, you can use either a commercial antispyware program or download one of the leading freebies. When installing the secondary applications, they will likely set themselves up to start automatically when you reboot. To get around this, you'll need to go into the System Configuration utility and remove the secondary antivirus programs from the Startup folder. Go to Start, Run, and type in: msconfig. Click the Startup tab and find the application in the list. Remove the checkmark in the box.

This prevents multiple antivirus programs from running at once. Your computer is still protected because your default application automatically launches and actively protects your PC against viruses. Every week or so, you can manually launch secondary antivirus program, update its database of definitions, and run a virus scan.

While it's possible that you may catch a virus that your main antivirus program missed using a secondary scanner, I doubt you'll find that having multiple antivirus applications is necessary if you have one of the better antivirus applications set up as your main one. So long as you have a quality product with an extensive, continuously updated database, you should have more than adequate protection. In particular, products such as McAfee AntiVirus Plus, ParetoLogic AntiVirus Plus, and TrendMicro PC-cillin all provide exceptional protection.

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