Why I’m Anti-Antivirus

By COLIN STONER

Viruses, malware, and spyware have long been a problem for the computer world, primarily with Windows machines.

As an IT Director for over eight years, I’ve seen most forms of viruses out there. Trojans that steal data, malware popups that render your browser unusable, and even a virus that locks your computer and displays a screen saver of porn for the whole world to see. Many machines were running antivirus software and failed to prevent the machine from becoming infected. Most of them were kind enough to let you know you had a virus after the fact. Better late than never, I guess. Thanks for that.

Antivirus programs can often fail at cleaning an infected machine to its state prior to infection. If it doesn’t stop the virus from infecting a machine and can’t clean it out, why exactly do we run this resource hog on our machines? Early in my career, I came to those crossroads and decided to abandon antivirus.

I had just sunk $10k into server-based antivirus solution for a rapidly growing company. It was (is?) the industry norm, and after six months of people complaining about slow laptops and no noticeable decrease in infections, I threw the server and software out. If your machine was heavily infected with a virus, our policy was to simply take a few hours and rebuild a clean install for you rather than try and chase the virus down a rabbit hole.

This is still our policy. We might try and clean up some of the smaller malware/spyware that is commonly accumulated through surfing the web, but if we can’t tell from a Google search or past experiences what the virus is, we simply reload a clean install of the OS.

Hi, everybody!

Tux may not be a doctor, but he’ll cure yourvirus.

Two necessary parts to not having antivirus are hardware firewalls and mail/spam filters. Some of the worst experiences I’ve had with viruses were when someone opened a malicious file attachment in an email just because it had their name on it, and having the mail filter virtually eliminates that possibility.

I get asked a lot by friends and family about what to do for antivirus. I’ll always recommend them something free (Microsoft Security Essentials or ClamAV) and then suggest that they avoid looking at porn in their browser. They laugh, I laugh, and then they realize that I was actually serious. If anything has created more virus headaches than email attachments, it’s definitely porn sites and the users that frequent them.

They’ll often ask me what I do for antivirus, and my response is always simple: I’m on a Mac. I’m not even remotely concerned with getting infected on a Mac or *nix machine. People that use Mac antivirus are probably also the people that put their kids on leashes at the park.

That’s the subtle “beauty “of antivirus solutions: FUD. Marketing is an amazing thing, and I fully believe it has benefited the antivirus world as much as anyone. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) can be extremely powerful if used appropriately, and scaring people about their personal data being stolen or losing all their data in a matter of seconds will get their attention and their dollars.

Always remember these three basics: If you feel like you need antivirus there are free options available; never open email attachments that you weren’t expecting; and lay off the porn.

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For more Rocky Mountain High Tech, check out Colin’s other posts: Advancing Beyond the Missoula Lifestyle Business, The Dreaded “C” Word: Cloud, and IdeaMensch in Missoula: Bring Your Entrepreneurial Ideas to Life.

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Colin Stoner, a Missoula entrepreneur

Colin Stoner is a Missoula IT consultant and entrepreneur. He has worked in almsot every aspect of IT, and loves most of them that don’t involve Microsoft. He is a Linux nut, a Python hack, and a lover of the cloud. When not stuck behind a monitor wall, you can find him enjoying a beer at one of our many breweries, skiing anywhere but Snowbowl, or playing handball at the Peak.