Is Antivirus Software Really Necessary?

A thread on OSNews popped up recently and I was very surprised to see someone argue that he didn’t need anti-virus protection on Windows. I suggested that it’s simply not worth the risk on Windows – viruses ARE out there, and it’s plain ol’ reckless to just assume you’ll never come in contact with one. However, lots of people seem to agree with him – that the right steps make AV software unnecessary. Read on for more.

The argument started as such: if you’re behind a router and don’t use IE, you’re safe.

Well, of course, this is bunk. There are MANY ways for malware to transverse a router (or even a firewall). So I responded: “Do you use email? Have you EVER allowed an ActiveX control to run? Do you have Java installed? Do you ever run applications you’ve downloaded from the internet?” Surely, this was proof that AV software is a necessary precaution.

But apparently not. It goes on and on, here’s a clip of the thread.

Now, I know from experience that I can run XP for several years with no infection whatsoever. But the facts are there: Windows is capable of making any file “executable” via associations. Recent iPods were shipped with viruses on them! USB thumb drives are more and more common and their whole benefit is portability. Email attachments are a necessity. How can anyone be so obtuse as to believe that Microsoft Windows – a security NIGHTMARE – is somehow better off without AV protection? Furthermore, how can supposedly educated people (it’s OSNews, they probably have computer experience) be so foolish?

Folks – you’re trying to argue that your smarts keep an unprotected system protected, and the best defense is not using the computer to do anything productive. It’s like saying “It’s easy not to get a cold if you know what you’re doing.” Sure it is – provided you don’t leave the house, which makes just about everything in life pointless.

Running Windows without AV protection is irresponsible. That doesn’t mean you’ll get a virus, because if you know what you’re doing, you probably won’t. But you might. So why take the chance?

16 Replies to “Is Antivirus Software Really Necessary?”

  1. In all honesty, my two Windows XP installs (on my laptop and on my desktop) don’t have AV software installed either. I don’t use these two installs very often (I use Linux mainly because Windows can’t have the titlebar buttons arranged MY way nor can it have doubleclick titlebar=minimise), so I never bothered with it. To be frank: I just don’t give a damn. You’re fighting an uphill battle anyway.

    I do have anti spyware, though.

  2. You don’t need AV. I think that either using popular freeware or legally-bought software will keep a Windows PC relatively healthy. Then *occasionally* run an antivirus (do not have shields on to the memory at all times), once a month run adaware’s anti-spyware app and be careful what attachments you open with OE. This strategy has kept my XP completely clean of viruses and spyware for years now.

  3. You and I apparently have very different usage patterns. I rarely get executables as mail attachments, and when I do I certainly never run them (not even the ones from my family). I don’t download and run random apps off the internet. I have a very select list of priviledged Java apps and ActiveX controls that I allow to run (flash, online banking, vpn… off the top of my head…). Also, I’m behind a NAT router.

    On the other hand, I only keep my WinXP-vmware image running for those pesky sites and programs that don’t function properly on this amd64 Fedora host (primarily youtube 🙂 ). Also, I dual boot occasionally to play Counter Strike, but my point is that I could use it as my primary environment.

  4. For the record, I don’t believe that I’m really suceptiple to viruses because I consider myself a smart user, but I don’t run without it, because I just think it’s silly NOT to use it.

    I get the point. I just don’t think that “because I’m too smart to get a virus” is a good enough reason not to use it when it’s free, unobtrusive, and available.

  5. Antivirus is not nessesary. What is important is:

    1. To be behind a Router

    2. To keep all programs updated.

    3. To have some antivirus in your email, e.g. by using gmail, hotmail, google apps mail, or some other provider with built in security. Almost all email have that already.

    Then you say what if you run ActiveX, or install programs. ActiveX og instaling programmers are the same, you then give the program or the ActiveX 100% control over your computer. You need to trust the vendor of the software you run and take care. If you want to use antivirus like a huge database over dangerues exe files then its a good thing. But besides that its mosly some kind of money machine for the antivirus company. And besides that is making you computer slower, and can give other types of problem.

  6. I've used Windows XP successfully for more than 8 years without antivirus software and have never gotten a computer virus (based on the fact that I've experienced no usability problems and never seen any suspicious activity on my router). The few times that I ever installed virus software, it caused far too many usability issues to be worth it. I'm honestly confused how people manage to get themselves infected – what exactly are you all running on your computer?

  7. So has everyone. There are regularly zero-day exploits in Flash swfs. There are still CDs out there with rootkits. There are USB drives shipped with viruses. I don't doubt many people run for years without ever getting a virus or malware, but I still think it's silly to try.

  8. You only get a malware if you run an infected executable or you have some security hole in your software. For the first, the AV will help but you can avoid it by yourself just not running untrusted executable code. For the second, I think that the AV is not a real solution – if someone manages to execute arbitrary code in your system with full rights (Administrator in Win or Root in Unix), then he can just crack the antivirus and later the whole system.

  9. I have been running my Windows machines, behind a NAT router for 10 years now, without anti-virus and have never once been infected with anything. Same goes for my wife.
    I work as an IT professional and have many clients with robust (read: annoying) security packages running on their machines, yet I’m out removing a virus from their computers every other month. What good is it doing them to pay for it? I don’t see it doing much, ever.

  10. Very few people know Windows could be as secure as Linux:

    1.Behind a router, or in defect, using builtin firewall.
    2.Using NTFS filesystem.
    3.Using a Limited User Account for diary use, Power User for installing soft and Asministrator Account only for administrative issues.
    4.Activating Software Restriction Policies to avoid online infections.
    5.Disabling Autorun in cd/dvd/usb.
    There are no virus in Linux for above reasons, not for other thing.

  11. Well honestly, as long as you don’t run suspicious executables on your Windows, then you shouldn’t have any problem. I removed the AV of my netbook (poor thing’s cpu was being constantly used at 100%, lol) and never had a virus.
    Of course, if you’re a neophyte computer user or you have a lot of dangerous downloading habits like cracks, “free” software, etc. then you should protect yourself.

  12. Uh. Anti-virus doesn’t even stop security breaches through things like flash. So, what’s the point of Anti-virus if you are careful with what you run and download onto your computer? It won’t even catch the rootkits that some hardware manufacturers have decided to put on your computer. Anti-virus is pretty useless. There’s always a way to create an EXE that does some crap to your computer with or without anti-virus. Just don’t download/run bad apps.

  13. The only thing an “Anti-virus” provides is a false sense of security. People like you make it seem like viruses magically appears on random computers that don’t install AV crapware. Someone had to do something stupid to get it there. I know this is just a crazy coincidence, but do you ever notice that the more people know about technology, the less viruses they get? The only way a person can keep their computer clean is by using their brain. All the anti virus people are doing is selling people a false sense of security, and giving them the illusion they can go on living carefree online, not ever worrying about crap getting onto their computer. I got news for you: If you are not safe online, you will get a virus…whether you have this “anti-virus” crap or not.

  14. I 100% agree. AV software does nothing but slow down your computer. Completely. Useless. Just be careful what you download and be aware of the email you open.

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