Anti-virus for Windows - is there any point?
January 5, 2015 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to weigh Symantec et al's admission that anti-virus software is now effectively useless against many threats vs. the recommendations in this thread of running nod32 and Malwarebytes pro in tandem.

I'm looking for well-informed assessments of A) whether this is worth the cost, in the case of Malwarebyes; B) how much protection it is likely to offer someone who doesn't do much online other than email and shopping via major retailer sites.
posted by ryanshepard to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
the best (as well as easiest and cheapest) thing you can do for windows is make sure that your everyday account does not have admin rights. just create a separate user that's your admin user for when you actually need to do something to your computer (hint, it's pretty rare now that everything is web-based)
posted by noloveforned at 11:32 AM on January 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Antivirus is useless like closing your car doors is useless. Feel free to not bother, but you will be massively increasing your risk.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:40 AM on January 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

I use (free) Avast and it's blocked viruses I would've gotten through sheer stupidity. A determined attacker will get around it, but when you're looking to download that MP3 you can't find anywhere and venturing into unknown corners of the internet, it's certainly good to have.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:46 AM on January 5, 2015

I would never run a PC without Microsoft Security Essentials. If the company that makes your OS is suggesting AV, then I would run AV. I am also a Malwarebytes fan.

This said, I give the opposite advice to mac users.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:35 PM on January 5, 2015

Best answer: I am a PC technician, do with that information as you will.

If you're only going to have one product, have Malwarebytes. You can still find lifetime subscriptions for ~$20, newegg had it last week at $20 for 3 licenses. It'll stop basically everything that you don't explicitly allow, and it'll do it with minimal intrusion.

What modern AV suites give you are really good wraparound services---firewalls, patch management, secure sandboxes for banking info, etc. I really like BitDefender Internet Security for that, but it can be a little daunting and the firewall is a little overly persnickety sometimes. AV Comparatives says you should use bitdefender, kaspersky, or nod32, pick your poison.

Your real infection vectors are clickbait garbage from facebook (use adblock (not adblock+, just adblock or adblock edge), and don't click clickbait garabge, outdated Adobe Acrobat (don't use acrobat unless you have to, Foxit, Sumatra, PDF-Xchange are all better in every regard), outdated Java (don't use Java if you don't have to, don't ignore update alerts), and email. (Don't open anything that's even remotely questionable.) Consider installing Sandboxie and running any strange links or files in there.
posted by TomMelee at 12:39 PM on January 5, 2015 [17 favorites]

Antivirus is not useless. It's more that they're all about equally ineffective at stopping everything.

Antivirus doesn't do a lot to prevent you from getting infected. It stops most things, but that's not nearly everything you could get infected with. It's worst at stopping new things, which happen to be the ones most likely to infect your machine.

What it does do is let you know that you've been infected at some point after it happens. Without antivirus, you'll only know you're infected when something bad happens.

I don't advise anyone to do more than run Microsoft Security Essentials and occasionally scan using the free version of Malwarebytes. Otherwise, the best thing you can do is be careful online and keep your apps and operating system updated. Secunia PSI is good for keeping your apps updated, and the OS will update itself.

Also, don't run Java or Quicktime if you don't absolutely require them. If you use Chrome, you may be able to do away with Flash and Adobe Reader as well. Those four, along with unpatched operating systems, are how almost all malware gets on PCs.
posted by cnc at 1:05 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd run microsoft security essentials and nothing else, personally. The value you get out of adding more products is not worth the overhead and cost. Just use chrome for your browser and don't install anything.
posted by empath at 1:35 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seconding TomMelee: Malwarebytes Pro. It is worth every penny. When I am getting a PC ready for regular wear-and-tear, I install MBP along with Superantispyware (which used to be a lot more effective but still retains some usefulness in terms of automatic proactivity and unwanted program identification and removal) and—seconding cjorgensen here—Microsoft Security Essentials. I supplement this with ccleaner. My personal experience is that Firefox is by far the most secure and intelligently defensive browser. Chrome seems to be slightly faster but my experience is that Firefox is better-suited for modern virus defense and protection.

To bump it up one notch, I cannot say enough good about Hitman Pro. What an amazing piece of anti-virus/anti-spyware software. Well worth the purchase price. When all others fail, HMP whomps the heck out of whatever ails you.

And true of all of the above, used separately or in tandem these programs are extraordinarily light in terms of demands on a system. Normally, you will not even notice their operating. (Try saying the same about a McAfee or Norton.)
Lastly, sportsfans, I keep rkill on the desktop and Tweaking's portable All-In-One-Windows-Repair on USB.
posted by Mike Mongo at 3:14 PM on January 5, 2015

Best answer: MS Security Essentials is drastically worse at detecting anything than it was even a couple years ago. I have had to fix my folks' laptop twice in a year - they had been running it constantly. (And bad stuff that took hours to remove)

I go with Avast and Malwarebytes Pro on anything I maintain at this point. I got a MWBP license (2013 version) on Amazon for $16 a month ago. Unlimited updates and runs resident, which is what you need.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:23 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

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