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  1. #1
    Lesser Hivemind Node Prolar Bear's Avatar
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    Antivirus choice - 2014 edition

    I'm back to bother you, fine and knowledgeable people.
    The McAfee trial on this laptop is about to expire: what would you recommend for a free antivirus?
    I had Avast on the other PCs and while it's served me well, lately it's grown quite annoying with all the popup ads.
    Right now I'm looking at Avira, AVG, Panda and BitDefender - any clue about those?
    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    MS Security Essentials. Yes, I also ride my bike without helmet.

  3. #3
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sakkura's Avatar
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    Avira has high detection rates and is free. AVG is also free, but their detection rates are a little lower and they're into various toolbar shenanigans.
    MSE has poor detection rates, so I don't really see any reason not to go for a better free antivirus like Avira.

    Kaspersky tends to have the highest detection rates, but then you have to pay for it. Generally a good free antivirus should be sufficient, especially if you use common sense while browsing.

  4. #4
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus squirrel's Avatar
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    I am using Avast free version and is seeing no ad pop-up so far, may be setting is different?

    And don't forget Spybot Search and Destroy. Almost a must-have these days.

    McAfee sucks. I wont consider it even if it is free or bundled.

  5. #5
    Lesser Hivemind Node Prolar Bear's Avatar
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    Yeah, McAfee seems terribad. I have installed Avira now and it seems to be fine, going to install MalwareBytes and CCleaner too.

  6. #6
    Network Hub Colonel J's Avatar
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    I dumped AVG because of it's foistware that wouldn't die - it kept re-installing it's security / search toolbar thing in Chrome. That may have changed in more recent versions, dunno.

    Used Avast free version for a few years now, it's pretty good and non-intrusive. The active website malware detection in the new version seems decent but from what I've seen of Malwarebytes it's probably better in that department. There are occasional tray pop-ups where it tries to pimp it's paid features on you but they aren't frequent and don't trouble me. When I had my OS on a hard drive I didn't like that it slow down my boot time a hell of a lot, added 40 seconds or so, though now with an SSD I don't notice it at all. To be honest though Avast doesn't seem at all essential anymore and I could live happily with MS Security Essentials plus Malwarebytes or Spybot.

    I have had intermittent problems in the past with Avast crashing Unity games to desktop, apparently a Unity engine issue that the game devs can't do anything about. I had problems in Bionic Dues a year ago, there was a work-around tweak in Avast settings that wasn't totally successful, but I haven't played it for a while so not sure it that's still an issue or not. Kerbal Space Programme was another I heard about with that problem.
    Last edited by Colonel J; 17-08-2014 at 07:00 PM.


  7. #7
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    One does not simply uninstall McAfee...



    You nuke it from orbit to be safe.

    I use MS Essentials, does everything needed.
    It is a technical difference, but's there none the less.

  8. #8
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    If there isn't much you have to scan, consider VirusTotal, essentially meta-AV. Won't do periodic scans or warn you about dangerous pages, though, just in case those are things you like your AV to do.

  9. #9
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    I used Avast for years. Then I got a little annoyed by a few popups so I tried a few other free AVs (such as AVG and Bitdefender). Then I ended up going back to Avast. AVG (which was great about 10 years ago) had way more intrusive scareware popups, and Bitdefender seemed good at detection, but I kept having issues with it (usually crashing the PC after version upgrades).

    Avast doesn't seem to have the best detection rates, but it's near the top of the pack and it just seems to throw up less issues than other free AV I've tried.

    Note 1: I've actually considered switching to a paid AV (I know, sacrilege!) because it'd avoid the main issue with all free AV (annoying/misleading/worrying pop-ups). But I'm reluctant to get into the whole 'pay every year' thing. If there was a decent 3-5 year deal then I might consider it.

    Note 2: The issue I had with Malwarebytes (at least on slower PCs) was that it loaded the whole database into memory on start up, effectively freezing the PC for 30secs-1min). Newer PCs may or may not have that issue. That's only an issue with the paid version though. (Them being about the only ones who do a pay-once price).

    Note 3: I have read so many articles over the last 3 years about how "Traditional AV is dead" and "Detection based AV is dead" etc.. But I have not yet been able to work out if this is true, or if it's just an attempt by AV companies to get people to upgrade to the paid versions with all the "social media / online banking protection". I also haven't been able to work out if that social/banking protection actually does anything.

    Note 4: With no evidence, I feel like browser ad/javascript blockers might be the most useful front-end defense. Adblock/Flashblock/Noscript/Safescript/HTTPswitchboard etc.. (depending on your browser) with a decent setup will probably prevent most infections before they even get to your AV. I use Httpswitchboard because I found adblock to slow down the browser too much.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by BillButNotBen View Post
    Note 3: I have read so many articles over the last 3 years about how "Traditional AV is dead" and "Detection based AV is dead" etc.. But I have not yet been able to work out if this is true, or if it's just an attempt by AV companies to get people to upgrade to the paid versions with all the "social media / online banking protection". I also haven't been able to work out if that social/banking protection actually does anything.
    I take this as meaning a few different things.

    First, viruses are no longer a very significant risk to computer security. Actual security risks these days are down to flash/browser exploits, trojan horses, and phishing attacks. AV can send warnings about sites to protect against the flash/browser exploits, but they'll miss a lot because they just blacklist, and nobody listens to those warnings anyways. AV is totally useless in protecting against phishing attacks. And AV could potentially protect against trojan horses, but...

    Malware is really hard to identify. By encrypting its code, malware can become practically invisible.

    If you want to spend money on security, spend it on disaster recovery-- a system for offline backup is probably the first step. Of course, everybody's situation is different.

  11. #11
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    @nate: Aren't those 2 bolded sentences kind of contradictory? Or do you mean that newer OSes are secure enough that most malware can't do much anyway?

    Does viruses not being a significant risk mean that the risk of viruses has gone down, or that other risks have overtaken them. Because there do seem to be a lot more viruses out there these days, and they seem to be much more professionally criminally developed than in the past.

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus rockman29's Avatar
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    I use Microsoft Security Essentials as well. Put off most of the others because they just seem to do random stuff I don't want or have weird ads or whatever.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by BillButNotBen View Post
    @nate: Aren't those 2 bolded sentences kind of contradictory? Or do you mean that newer OSes are secure enough that most malware can't do much anyway?
    I'm distinguishing malware from viruses. Viruses have bits of code that infect other programs, and are a kind of malware, but aren't the only kind of malware. For instance, Cryptolocker, which was one of the most overtly expensive bits of recent malware, wasn't a virus, but a trojan: a bit of malware masquerading as a different sort of file.

    OSes are only ever as secure as their users, so I don't believe that even newer OSes are particularly secure.

    Does viruses not being a significant risk mean that the risk of viruses has gone down, or that other risks have overtaken them.
    Both. There are fewer viruses being written because it's so much easier to phish, and because "hacker cred" has migrated to the discovery of exploits.

    Because there do seem to be a lot more viruses out there these days, and they seem to be much more professionally criminally developed than in the past.
    Is it possible that you and I are using the term "virus" in different ways? Are you using it for malware in general? Paul Ducklin of Naked Security writes,

    Fifteen to twenty years ago, the malware scene was almost all about viruses and worms: although the internet was popular, only a small minority went online regularly, so malware couldn't rely on sitting around in inboxes or on websites waiting to be clicked.
    and later,

    Viruses are rare these days.
    Articles like that are largely why I write that viruses are no longer the big threat to security.

  14. #14
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    We may be. I tend to think of virus and malware as effectively the same thing. (trojan too). It's something my PC can 'catch'. I'm not sure on the technical definitions.

    Are we saying that 'virus' spread autonomously, but 'trojans' need to be installed by the user? And that 'malware' is a catch-all term for all of those and others?

    I find the differentiation tricky, because lots of malware seems so advanced these days that it seems to include the features of both. It might be installed by pretending to be something else, but it then installs an email server and emails itself to your contacts, and also maybe infects your files.
    And I'd (perhaps naively) expect my AV to detect infections coming from viruses, trojans and other forms of malware.

    (For example, we could say that Android has few (none?) viruses, because they can't spread themselves, but lots of malware that users can install themselves if they aren't careful. Right? But PC doesn't seem to have the same level of differentiation. )

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    You're right, it is tricky, and the borders are very blurry. If you want to figure out more about the definitions, you can read the wikipedia pages, but I think that you're correct that it doesn't matter all that much.

    Historically, AV has been aimed at viruses (hence "antivirus"); part of identifying these is recognizing that executables shouldn't be written to (which is the basic method of infection for viruses). It's harder, at least on a PC, to identify clear rules to prevent trojans, because who the hell knows what you're installing or why: an IRC agent and a script interpreter? A compiler and a bit of source and a batch file? Totally valid things to install, or, maybe, complete compromise of your system. The devil is in the details.

  16. #16
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    I see viruses as damaging the computer, thus it's easy to detect. Malware fools the user, so it's not really something a PC can "detect". :P

    A lot of malware does nothing to actually harm your PC. It just puts a file/program on it that opens a window and asks you to click. That is what 99% of normal software does. It's just malware pops up with "send us "1000s for this latest game/dating/con/pretend gold chains" adds instead of the normal Steam/EA adds. ;)
    It is a technical difference, but's there none the less.

  17. #17
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    I say 'none' personally, but I guess it depends on your needs. I just do periodic scans and have turned up nothing in the last 5 years. Nada.

    But then if I did get some sort of infection I would consider re-installing Windows to be a minor inconvienoience and the lesser evil to having horrid AV software installed.

  18. #18
    Lesser Hivemind Node L_No's Avatar
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    I have been using Avast for the last few years now, and I must say I've never really been bothered by pop-ups. Maybe you should take a look at your settings, if you haven't already done so? I prefer to use a lightweight AV program, combined with an anti spy- and malware program like Spybot Search & Destroy.
    Want to add me on Steam? Steam name: Mr. Gert

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by baboonanza View Post
    I say 'none' personally, but I guess it depends on your needs. I just do periodic scans and have turned up nothing in the last 5 years. Nada.

    But then if I did get some sort of infection I would consider re-installing Windows to be a minor inconvienoience and the lesser evil to having horrid AV software installed.
    Roll backs. Weekly or more often backups make a re-install not needed. :)
    It is a technical difference, but's there none the less.

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    Well, you have to be a bit careful with regular OS backups since if you don't notice an infection right away you could end up with a corrupted backup. But I keep an image of my system after a clean install yes.

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