out-of-date virus checkers can be risky, as it can be to
spyware what a pool of water is to mosquitos: A perfect breeding ground
for more problems.
As of late 2004,
PCs are far more likely (e.g., tens to hundreds of
times) to be attacked by spyware than they are to be attacked by
traditional viruses. This speaks well of the effectiveness of virsus
checkers, since they have done a good job of reducing the frequency of
virus infections in the Internet. However, from a practical viewpoint
it also means that most people are putting too much time, money, and
trust into the wrong kinds of protections for their PCs.
If you have a
good firewall, active spyware guards, and good email
hygene (the latter point cannot be emphasized enough!), it is possible
to go for weeks, months, or longer without getting hit by a virus. For
such low infection rates, an online virus checker such as Trend Micro's
Housecall can do the job nicely, while minimizing the amount of
resident software in which clever spyware might rake up residence. I
was surprised at just how viable this option is. In sharp contrast,
attempting to run a PC on a DSL line in late 2004 without the benefit
of good firewalls and active antipyware guards comes close to being a
form of privacy and performance suicide.
If you choose to
reinstall your virus checker, be sure it is both
current and under a valid subscription. Get a recent CD copy if at all
possible, since repeated online upgrades over a period of months or
years can dramatically increase the overall risk that spyware will get
in at some point and subvert your checker.
important point: Do not let old virus remain on your
computer. If your subscription has expired, remove
the virus checker. Don't let
it become a breeding ground for spyware. For example, have you ever had
a virus checker that seemed to keep updating itself long after your
subscription had expired? While vendors sometimes really are generous,
magical out-of-subscription updates can also be a sign that your
expired virus updater has been hijacked by spyware, and is now busily
downloading software that has nothing whatsoever to do with protecting
you from viruses.