Last night was the fourth time when AVG Free antivirus started fooling around with me again. It started detecting application executables, as viruses and threats and started disabling them one by one, disabling .exe files with gusto and with such heroism, possibly thinking that it was doing something great. When i saw that my own favorite programs were being scanned and put away into the jail (AVG Vault), i immediately shut down the internet connection before any further intrusions came up, looked at the Virus Vault where all my files were ‘sentenced to death’ and by the look of the great ‘work well done’ by AVG, i knew i would be in deep sh*t if i didn’t do something soon enough. Funny thing was AVG’s own exe was in the bundle of convicts. :D. A simple restore did the matter of sending the files to their respective spots though, as i hadnt set the files to be deleted immediately after detection (which can be very useful in situations like this), nor did i click on delete/remove all intrusions in the virus vault. As this was the fourth time that this is happening, there was this ‘experience’ which i can say i have. But still it caught me with the same scare.
Immediately i went for the next antivirus and found Avast and Avira in my Softwares collection. A coin toss wasnt needed because one way or the other, the result will all be the same, you end up being screwed and you again switch over.AVG was too stubborn to uninstall through the control panel. So, i used this cleaner software to wipe it out (A review of it is coming soon). After that, i went with Avast. Now its running some scans as normally it should do, and everything looks fine it seems.
But lets face it. What is all this hype and props regarding the ‘BEST’ antivirus software that is FREE? Even though, it doesnt seem to reach the priveledged standards of security from the bigger and better paid software bundles, there are commotions that ‘this is awesome, that one is outta this world’ thing. Come on, what can you expect when you pay nothing and ‘do nothing’ for the cause of the program (read: Open Source). Anyways, let me list a few antivirus softwares that are free and that can be considered as ‘worthwhile’, and when a problem arises, you should scream “NEXTTT!!!”.
Back in early 2006, i was an individual who used to claim that i was never infected by viruses or anything of that sort. That time i was using a firewall cum scanner called ‘Zone Alarm’. It seemed good, everything seemed ‘fine’. People who saw this, got copies of the software for themselves and i thought that everything was fine with them too because i never heard from them again (no pun intended), on the matter 😛 . This happened till one day when a friend of mine shook my boat. He got Zone Alarm after he heard me ‘rant about it. He said he had tried it. And he uninstalled it within a day. :S . His complaints were aplenty. Doesnt scan properly, Brontok/ Rontokbro; the virtual villains of then, werent detected, doesnt bring proper results, so and so. I then asked him for his suggestion.
‘I hear this great little software called AVG that doesn’t hog resources and bring good results’.
And mind you, Zone Alarm 2006 was a little bit of a hogger.
So after much coaxing, i removed ZA from the system and installed AVG Free Antivirus 7.0 (now 8.0). And with the latest updates and everything set, AVG started finding viruses like picking hay from the haystack. In the end, i was staring with dropped jaws, at 6210 detections. Harmless, but nonetheless, proper intrustions. I cleaned them up, but i wasn’t that convinced. It became an instant hit with whoever who used it thought and started reigning in this ‘cult status’ in the hostel buidling in college. But i wasnt convinced. There would be a full stop at some point.
And there was. My dad got me a copy of Norton AntiVirus (which i never liked much but still). Each and every .exe related to Norton was detected as a threat. Things started going haywire as there started an endless war between Norton unarmed forces (not even installed) and AVG’s. This was the first time that something like this was even happening. It was confirmed on some online forums too. Then i noticed this happened against McAfee too. Another issue was the scans too a lot of time and the system resources will be hogged for the entire moment. Slowdowns, crashes, disconnections… well what can i say. The control panel of AVG used to show RED signal (for emergency) even when it doesnt find the update server, i.e. when i am not connected to the internet, and this used to bug me a lot. There are more that i can point to.
Tired of all this I went for the next ‘best’ thing out there. Avast!. The installation went neat after a small download. The interface was what took me for ‘confused at first sight’. It doesnt look like your normal antivirus thing, but more like a music player. Registration online for a free license went fine and everything seemed good until a point after some months, i noticed that it wont look up on some major viruses on the prowl. It was too ‘lazy’; not a good word, but thats what i found seemingly relevant. The resident shield did do some good work, but most of the ‘work’ went unscathed. When i did scanning through my lan interface using a different computer with a full blown Kaspersky, it found a huge lot of stuff, nothing to do with innocent .exe files, but lots of others.
Another factor that caught me was the intrusion detection ‘sounds’ from avast. That was spooky at first, but later on IRRITATING and INTRUDING…our privacy. To me avast! looked like some old man, who was seemingly experienced and knew his job well, but didnt want to do it. Fancy this, but there was no war between avast! or any other antivirus found on the system. 😀
For some of these reasons, i went for the next “best” free antivirus called Avira. Yes, this was tiny and smooth like the name sounded, but it had its own limitations in that manner, which i dont want to elaborate because of the fact that i had too much ‘fun’ with AVG and Avast!. All in all, after attacks and viral problems and frequent rotations between free antivirus systems, i found out that none of them are perfect. Ofcourse, they cant be, they are minimal versions from their full potential. But for namesake of having an antivirus, they will fit the bill. For the job to be done, they wont.
I think i will move onto having a fully paid antivirus software again, like Kaspersky, which is deemed to be the best out there. Or else, if nothing works, Linux will be the best answer. I wont have to scream “NEEEEXTTT!” when something goes wrong again.
I used a test system for testing the antivirus softwares on. This 2.0Ghz Core Duo system with 1GB ram had enough resources for pulling through great viruses and antiviruses. I made sure i ‘updated it’ with the latest viruses, trojans, thumbdrive intrusions and stuff except rootkits(which cant be handled by a free antivirus for sure), for the scenario. Test run was done for two years (:D) with rotating installations upto 4 times each. Each and every antivirus was run one at a time, with the latest updates and for a period of one month-six months before uninstalling and moving on with the next one. And one more thing, NEVER EVER HAVE MORE THAN ONE ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE, WHETHER FREE OR NOT, IN YOUR SYSTEM AT A TIME. Its like putting two of your girlfriends, who never knew each other or that you are going out with each, into the same room :P.