Choosing Anti-Virus Software

Just over a year ago The ITS Connection contained a story about the importance of anti-virus software. After a recent flurry of costly infections at several clients' sites we thought we should write about the topic again.

The most common type of virus today are called macro viruses. These viruses, which did not even exist just a few years ago, are embedded into document files and instantly infect a user's computer when the file is opened. These viruses spread like wildfire since every document opened after that point is infected. You can see how this is a tremendous problem on a corporate network, as PCs are infected faster than they can be cleaned.

The latest virus outbreak to hit the news was the Melissa virus. This virus is especially insidious because once it infects a PC it e-mails copies of itself to the first fifty names in the user's address book. It infected thousands of computers worldwide within days, besides overloading hundreds of mail servers. The point is that the major virus-detection software companies had updates available within days, but users without the latest update to their virus program are still vulnerable.

When choosing a virus-detection package, select one that has periodic updates available. Most companies will let you download updates over the Internet, where they are posted about once per month.

With new viruses appearing every month, obtaining periodic updates is a critical step in preventing infections.

Update: Currently ITS recommends Norton AntiVirus for small business and home users, and Symantec AntiVirus Corporate Edition for most businesses, due to ease of updating, ease of use, and compatibility. This does not necessarily apply to "bundled" products like Norton Internet Security.

Instructions to update your antivirus software

May 1999
Updated April 2004

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