Common sense anti-virus approach – “Dribble Snort”
(Ed. note: With a name like “Dribble Snort,” it has to be good. :))
Let me start by stating that I am sure I will receive many flames for my views on anti-virus software and its use (or lack thereof)
All I can say is if you want to email me about it, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The point of this article is simply to expose the myth surrounding the “dire need” for anti-virus software.
This does not mean that you shouldn’t have software like firewalls or spyware detectors like Ad Aware.
It just means that with a few minor modifications to your behavior, and a few minor modifications to your system, you do not “need” to shell out $70 for anti-virus software.
First, a little background on my experiences with computers. I have been using computers since I was 12 years old. That’s not a big deal. A lot of people these days can make that claim. However, since I am now 35, I can say that 21 years of experience has taught me more than the basics.
I was using computers long before the Internet became a public road. In all 21 of those years of visiting BBSes, warez sites, pr0n sites, and the like, I have yet to become infected with a single trojan or virus, or have a malicious java script crash my system.
Does this mean that I can guarantee that I will never get infected? No. I cannot guarantee that. But neither can your anti-virus software!
Most people order a new machine from a maker like Gateway or Dell, and it comes with anti-virus software pre-loaded. You usually get 30 days of free use before you are forced to fork over the money or buy a different product from a competitor.
At the end of those 30 days, I recommend you uninstall the anti-virus software and DO NOT PURCHASE NEW ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE!
Why? Because there are some simple steps that you can take to prevent yourself from being infected, none of which requires the purchase of anti-virus software. In fact, I’d say that the effectiveness of my method is greater than that of the anti-virus software companies.
My methods? Simple.
1) NEVER, N-E-V-E-R open emails from people you don’t know! How hard is that? Based on the sales of anti-virus software, you’d think it seems too hard for most users. However, just because it “seems” too hard doesn’t mean it “is” too hard.
2) Never use Outlook Express. NEVER. N-E-V-E-R. Use a program like “The Bat” email program (mind you, I’m talking family, not corporate PC). It doesn’t prevent you from sending or receiving pictures, music, or files. It just provides easy email composing, sending and receiving. It contains many, if not most of the same features of OE, without the vulnerabilities evil code creatures target.
3) What about receiving .doc or .xls or .ppt files that may contain macros, and possibly macro viruses? What do I do about those files?
There are two ways to deal with these types of files.
- Get a free email account like yahoo for your email! Besides being able to access your email from any area, you can scan your incoming emails with yahoo’s anti-virus software. Let Yahoo pay for the software to scan your emails!
- Many businesses today require you to send your resume as a text document. This is to prevent macro viruses from running. Same with xls files too. These files look the same as their .doc or .xls counterparts, they just do not allow a macro virus to execute when opened.
So make your friends and associates aware that you will only accept files in certain formats. For instance, with MS Word accept only Rich Text Format (or whatever format you choose that ISN’T in .doc format) and for MS Excel files, accept “tab separated value” files.
How hard is it to open these files? Right-click, open with, choose MS Word or MS Excel. Done. WHEW! That was DIFFICULT wasn’t it?! If it’s a good enough practice used in business for résumé’s and other corporate documents, it should be good enough for friends and family. No exceptions. NONE. Nada. Zilch. Get it?
Why? Because if you then receive a file from a family member or friend that ISN’T in one of those formats, it’s a good chance that a trojan or virus sent the email.
Simply reply to the friend/family member and ask if they sent the file in that forbidden format. If they didn’t, you have not only prevented YOUR system from being infected, you just caught the virus on a friend/family member’s system
4) Have friends and family send you links to .exe files with a description or screenshot of what they do or how they look, instead of the .exe file itself.
If the programs are so good that they felt the need to share, chances are they’re already on www.tucows.com or www.download.com . They scan their files for viruses regularly.
If you receive a file from a friend or family member with no description, screenshot, or message telling you about the program, chances are, they didn’t send it anyway. Most likely, it was a virus or trojan program that sent it.
5) Disable VB and Java Scripting in your browser, or use a browser like Mozilla or Opera.
6) Install a firewall like “ZoneAlarm” or “Tiny Personal Firewall” to prevent hackers from getting into your system, and install spyware detectors to keep the online tracking and popups from driving you to distraction.
Are these suggestions 100% guaranteed to stop any and all virus infections? Trojans too? Malicious scripts also?
No. They aren’t. Then again, if you read the disclaimer on the virus software you just paid $70.00 for THEY don’t guarantee they’ll stop any of these things either!
My methods have stopped a higher percentage (read 100% so far over 14 years) of viruses for $70.00 less. Take that $70.00 and use it to feed your kids, pay bills, or buy computer stuff!