The Norman Transcript

May 5, 2013

The rules of digital engagement

By Dave Moore
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Few computer users remain who don’t know their computer should have some sort of antivirus protection. Whether it’s a Windows PC or a once-thought-to-be-immune Apple Mac, good antivirus protection is a must-have.

Like most things related to computer safety and security, antivirus programs are not magic, hands-off, no-thought-required products. You will still have to do a few things, answer a few questions and make a few decisions. Your effort will be rewarded, provided you follow a few basic rules.

You should have no more than one antivirus program installed and actively running at a time; the key word here is “running.” Some antivirus programs can be installed, but not constantly running in the background. In other words, they can be run “on demand” to give your computer a checkup at your discretion, but they don’t start running as soon as you turn on your computer.

You do want to have an antivirus program that starts up and actively runs in the background as soon as you turn on your computer. This is called “real-time protection,” and it is something you absolutely must have. However, there should be only one product that provides this vital function. If you have two antivirus programs installed and providing real-time protection at the same time, they will fight each other, and the result can be worse than not having anything at all.

Choosing which antivirus product to use can be a challenging quest. Naturally, every antivirus company claims to be the best, and truly objective online reviews of antivirus programs can be hard to come by. As such, I have chosen to trust the evaluations and test results of, shall we say, the leading consumer reporting magazine of our times.

My reasons for this are simple: they have a million-dollar laboratory to test antivirus products, and I do not. I also do not have a team of technicians to do my bidding, but they do. This “leading consumer reporting magazine” is renowned for its impartiality and thoroughness, so I have adopted their antivirus opinions as my own.

Every year, this magazine tests the major antivirus products and issues a report describing the test results. They also make recommendations as to what consumers might want to use. For the past five or six years, one antivirus product has topped the list; it is called Avira. So, I have been recommending and installing Avira Antivirus (www.avira.com) all those years, and have never been disappointed.

Other top-ranking products are from Avast, Bitdefender and AVG. At the other end of the scale, many consumers are shocked to learn that some well-known antivirus products, such as Norton and McAfee, are not top-rated and are not recommended by me. I am particularly fond of Avast as an alternative to Avira, as it is easy for most computer users to install and doesn’t demand much in the way of system resources.

You also need to make sure your antivirus program is properly configured. Sometimes, a programs’ default settings are fine; sometimes, they are not. It is your job to make sure they are set to be the best they can be. Make sure it is set to start when you turn on your computer, and to update itself often. Set it to do a complete system scan on a regular basis; once a week is good for most users. Make sure it scans everything, with no exceptions.

Finally, make sure you know the name of your antivirus product. This can be critical if fake alerts start popping up, claiming that your computer is suddenly “infected.” If you don’t know the name of your antivirus program, you can be easily fooled. Learn its name and stay safe.

Dave Moore has been performing computer consulting, repairs, security and networking in Oklahoma since 1984. He also teaches computer safety workshops for public and private organizations. He can be reached at 405-919-9901 or www.davemoorecomputers.com.