From:         Patrick Douglas Crispen 
Subject:      Tourbus - 30 Sep 04 - Update Your Antivirus


The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

Howdy, y'all, and greetings once again from deep behind the orange curtain in beautiful Irvine, California, gateway to scenic central Botswana. :P

Today's journey of our little bus of Internet happiness is the much- anticipated fourth part in my never-ending Home Computer Security series. If you missed any of the previous posts, you can find them all online in the Tourbus archives:

Part One: Exploits and Patch Management

Part Two: Firewalls

Part Two and a half: Odds and Ends

Part Three: Testing your Firewall

TOURBUS is made possible by the kind support of our sponsors. Please take a moment to visit today's sponsors and thank them for keeping our little bus of Internet happiness on the road week after week.

On with the show...

Update Your Antivirus Audience: Everyone

True or False: If you have both a hardware and a software firewall that you've tested using both Sygate Online Services and Shields Up [see ] and you also have all of the necessary patches for your operating system, you don't really *need* an antivirus program. You're already protected. Right?


According to our friends at antivirus software manufacturer Symantec, there are currently 68,152 PC viruses out there. 10 to 15 new viruses are discovered each day. Between 3,650 and 5,475 brand new viruses were discovered in just the past year alone. And the moment you connect your computer to the Internet your computer is immediately vulnerable to ALL of these viruses.

Having a good, up-to-date antivirus program is an ESSENTIAL part of home computer security.

Busting a Common Myth

True or False: As long as you keep updating your antivirus definitions as frequently as possible, the antivirus software that came with your computer should protect you.


Unless your computer is only a few months old, your antivirus software is very likely outdated and may not be able to detect the newest, polymorphic viruses. For example, I have been told [but haven't really verified because I am the laziest man on the planet] that while older versions of Norton Antivirus *WON'T* detect JPEG viruses [see], the newest version--Norton Antivirus 2005-- will.

Of course, I'm probably completely wrong [as usual.] The point I'm trying to make is that your antivirus software actually has two completely, distinct parts:

1. A computer program that scans your computer for viruses.

2. Antivirus definitions that tell that program exactly what to
look for.

Updating your antivirus definitions--which you should do frequently-- is *NOT* the same thing as updating your antivirus program. Just like you need to change the oil in your car every few months, you need to change your antivirus software every 12 to 18 months. And by "change" I mean you need to completely uninstall the old version [like Norton Antivirus 2002], throw it away, and then purchase and install the latest version [like Norton Antivirus 2005.]

If you don't have BOTH the latest antivirus definitions AND the latest antivirus program, your computer may not be fully protected. And 62% of broadband computer users do not have current antivirus software. [Source AOL as quoted by]

The Latest Antivirus Software

The latest versions of the top two consumer antivirus software programs are

  • Norton Antivirus 2005 [~US$50]
  • McAfee VirusScan 2005 [~US$50]
  • If fifty bucks per computer is too much money to spend, don't panic. You can get a really good, free antivirus program called "AVG Anti- Virus Free Edition version 7" at

    Is a free antivirus software even worth your time? Well, I know a few computer gurus who actually prefer the free AVG to the more expensive Norton and McAfee programs.

    Me? I'm sticking with Norton.

    Antivirus Update Schedule

    As part of your regular security schedule, you need to

    1. Completely replace your antivirus software every 12 to 18
    months. In fact, a good rule of thumb is that when your antivirus definitions subscription runs out you should think about uninstalling and replacing your antivirus program instead of paying to renew the subscription. The new version usually comes with a one-year subscription built into it.

    2. Update your antivirus definitions daily. Most antivirus
    programs do this automatically.

    3. Manually update your antivirus definitions weekly. Automatic
    updates are cool, but run an update by hand each week just to be safe.

    Manually Updating Your Antivirus Definitions

    How do you manually update your antivirus definitions? It's simple! In Norton Antivirus, click on the "Live Update" button and Norton automatically downloads and installs the latest virus definitions. McAfee VirusScan has a similar update function. Go to File > Update VirusScan.

    If you are unsure how to update your virus definitions, visit the Web site of your antivirus software manufacturer and look for their "download," "update," or "technical support" section. And if you are on AOL, you can find the latest virus definitions for most antivirus programs at keyword: virus.

    What About Macs?

    The possibility of new Mac viruses, while slight, is still greater than zero. And the possibility of future, cross-platform viruses (viruses that infect both PCs and Macs) is also quite real.

    So, yes, Mac users also need antivirus software.

    And keep it updated.

    That's part four. Two more parts to go!

    The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
    Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

    Have a safe and happy weekend, and we'll talk again soon!

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