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Why Popular Anti-Virus Apps 'Don't Work' 375

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the build-a-better-mousetrap dept.
Avantare writes "ZDNet Australia has a writeup about why AV apps don't work. The reason given is because the malware authors are writing code that will get around the signatures of the application by testing their code on the most popular anti-virus software before release." This comes as a follow up to another article detailing the sad state of anti-virus software currently on the market.
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Why Popular Anti-Virus Apps 'Don't Work'

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  • No S**t (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Instine (963303) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:35PM (#15763740)
    AV software, and even most firewall software, which goes beyond port control simply prevents the user using the whole of the internet, but rarely stops the internet using them. This is just one reason why.

    Still an interesting point it raises, and a good example to give to none believers if you ever have to give the "Nothing is perfectly secure" speach to a client.
    • Re:No S**t (Score:5, Informative)

      by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Saturday July 22, 2006 @03:00PM (#15763814) Homepage Journal
      Still an interesting point it raises, and a good example to give to none believers if you ever have to give the "Nothing is perfectly secure" speach to a client.

      At least people are starting to realize this.

      As for myself, I used to use Symantec's antivirus software both at home and at work, but a year ago decided it just wasn't worth it. The program was the most obscene resource hogs I've ever had the displeasure to use, and in the 7+ years of using the program it never once protected me from getting a virus. The same can be said for a lot of other AV offerings, and yet you still see some idiots suggesting you run 2-4 different AV applications just to "be sure you're safe".

      Once people realize that the single best and most effective method of protecting themselves is common sense, they will be a lot better off. If you don't download from untrusted sources, don't click banners, don't install just any (activeX|extensions), and keep your machine patched, you'll be fine (YMMV of course).

      The problem is that while people can buy Symantec's latest breakthrough in keeping your processor occupied, they cannot buy common sense.
      • Symantec software is even worse than you said, in my experience.

        You didn't mention the bugginess.
        • Ive seen my fair share of viruses, and also my fair share of antivirus programs, but ive never seen a off the shelf product work as well. i use AVGfree, and as far as i know i have had next to no trouble with viruses. It is small in terms of memory and downloads but it seems to work a lot better than anything else ive tried.

          But i think there may be more to it. I think if you know your fair share about computers you know what to stay away from. I know that any site on the internet offering wares and serials
      • Re:No S**t (Score:4, Interesting)

        by tokenhillbilly (311564) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @03:51PM (#15763945)
        I did the same thing almost the same time ago. I had 5 computers in my home running Symantic AV. The subscriptions kept expiring on a seemingly continuous rotation. Looking at the logs, none of them had detected a single virus in over a year. I finally decided to develop a system of backing up any critical files on a regular basis and a proceedure for reloading my systems if they were affected by any malware that came along. I removed all protection from my systems and waited for the worst.

        It's a year later and, other than my systems running almost twice as fast and having a lot fewer weird hangups and crashes, I have not had a single problem.
        • Re:No S**t (Score:5, Interesting)

          by vux984 (928602) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @06:29PM (#15764395)
          It's a year later and, other than my systems running almost twice as fast and having a lot fewer weird hangups and crashes, I have not had a single problem.

          I cancelled the insurance on my home. One year later other than saving $550 I have not had a single problem. I wasn't robbed, it didn't burn down, and no hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes hit me either...

          Just because the "worst" didn't happen, doesn't mean it won't.

          Plus what is the "worst"? Its ill-defined. In my opinion its *not* a virus/spyware that pops up 400 popups and makes your computer an unusable steaming turd. Its the virus that installs a rootkit and remote control software, and adds your PC to a zombie spam network, and/or sets it up as "free ftp space" for child porn. All this after scanning your PC for passwords, financial records (the save files from tax software, credit card information, etc etc...), and installs a keylogger. And then it runs like this for 6 months without you knowing about it.

          Then you get a low disc space warning and that's when you find the hidden folder full of child pornography you've been serving up for the last year.

          I'm not saying Norton's software is better than garbage. I too think its over rated, over priced crap. But sadly, installing nothing and doing regular backups is far less protection than you might think.

          I recall one virus in particular that periodically would randomly pick a file and rewrite a few dozen bytes in it in some random place. In theory it could run for months without getting detected. Gradually your doucments would become corrupt, or applications would start having issues until finally it would hit something critical and your pc would fail. Restoring from backups was worthless because this thing had been damaging files for ages, and your backups were full of damaged files.

          For what its worth, I tend to agree that "real-time" protection is over-rated, 0-day exploits and so one will continue to get through, but frequent full system scans with the latest definitions are a good idea.
          • Re:No S**t (Score:3, Insightful)

            by NixLuver (693391)
            From TFA:

            '"The most popular brands of antivirus on the market... have an 80 percent miss rate... So if you are running these pieces of software, eight out of 10 pieces of malicious code are going to get in," said Ingram.'

            Your argument is specious. Your conclusion may not be completely so ( that's an individual min-max: Is the effort, expense, and general PITA compensation for my 20% risk reduction ), but I'm more inclined to believe it's an IT-type "No one ever got fired for recommending an antivirus applic
            • Re:No S**t (Score:3, Insightful)

              by vux984 (928602)
              Your argument is specious.

              I'd say that depends largely on which virus scanner you end up choosing.
              Kapersky was noted as having a 90% hit rate, for example.
              • Re:No S**t (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Phisbut (761268)
                I'd say that depends largely on which virus scanner you end up choosing.

                Kapersky was noted as having a 90% hit rate, for example.

                It also depends on which virus scanner you're actually allowed to choose from. Kaspersky might have a 90% hit rate, and we know it's good... but at the office, we had to go with McAfee (which is also a terrible ressource hog) and were not even allowed to evaluate Kaspersky... because... well... you know... Russians are evil... they could be spying through their software...

                Sad

      • Re:No S**t (Score:3, Insightful)

        by secolactico (519805)
        The program was the most obscene resource hogs I've ever had the displeasure to use

        Sadly, Symantec and most popular anti-virus apps now want to do *everything*. They install a firewall, anti-spam, anti-phishing, web content blocker, etc. And usually, turning off these features simply mean they won't actively filter/block but will still be residing in memory.

        All I want is an antivirus that doesn't try to do everything for me. I've been a user of Panda Software for a while, but I won't be renewing my subsc
        • Re:No S**t (Score:4, Interesting)

          by kz45 (175825) <kz45@blob.com> on Saturday July 22, 2006 @04:51PM (#15764118)
          "The program was the most obscene resource hogs I've ever had the displeasure to use"

          The home editions are a resource hog. The enterprise edition (at least of mcafee) has a very small footprint and is lightning fast. Mcafee should consider using the same build on their home editions.
  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:35PM (#15763741) Homepage
    Or are both of these articles the same thing? And not much of anything, either. Two paragraph blurbs on the sad state of AV software.

    Nothing to see here, move along please.

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:56PM (#15763806)
      Think about it for a moment. What is the intent of anti-virus software ("anti" + "virus")? Isn't it to stop apps that you don't want running on your computer? Apps that were written by the "bad guys"?

      So, the reason that anti-virus software sucks is because the "bad guys" are writing BETTER "viruses" that can bypass the anti-virus programmers' software.

      And the reason for that is that anti-virus software is REACTIVE.

      A proactive system would patch the holes that are being exploited.

      A reactive system issues patches to remove all the specific threats encountered so far.

      That approach will ALWAYS result in the "good guys" being behind the "bad guys". Like DUH!!!
      • by CashCarSTAR (548853) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @03:20PM (#15763863)
        The biggest hole existing right now is the user. Any thought otherwise is simply whistling in the wind.

        Once a user runs software, if that software is malicious, that computer is compromised. Period.
        • The biggest hole existing right now is the user. Any thought otherwise is simply whistling in the wind.

          Not so. There is a lot that can be done as I will explain.

          Once a user runs software, if that software is malicious, that computer is compromised. Period.

          That is correct. But it is inaccurate as, in most cases, the user is NOT AWARE that s/he is running software or installing software.

          Which is one of the reasons that Linux is so resistant to the "viruses" (viruses, worms and trojans) that are out there. The

          • by MarkByers (770551) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @04:07PM (#15764003) Homepage Journal
            Linux isn't a silver bullet. A virus can still install itself in user space, and from there it can:

              * Delete files
              * Read confidential files from that one user (a typical computer might only have 1 or 2 users)
              * Send out spam
              * Install a keylogger
              * Read the users contact list and forward itself to all users on that list.
              * Install itself to start up with user priveleges when the computer boots (by modifying the users configuration files)
              * Pretty much anything...

            However having separate users does limit the damage and it makes it a lot easier to clean up since no executable files are affected, root should be safe, and the system should still be stable and consistent once the virus is removed. (This is not true if the virus has gained root priveleges, and really you should assume that it has, if you really want to be safe).

            Much of the security of Linux comes from:

              * The peer review process.
              * The speed that the most serious holes are patched and the ease of applying these patches on most distribution.
              * Vulnerable services are not usually open to attack after a default install.
              * 'Biodiversity' - an attack against a specific application will not affect all users.
              * New install media with latest bug fixes issued regularly and easy to obtain.
              * Large amounts of software is available from the distribution repository so you don't need to download and run installers from third-party web pages.
              * Smaller market share gives attackers less incentive to attack.

            I'm not saying that ALL software for Linux is secure, and that ALL distributions respond promptly to security vulnerabilities, but it is possible to be reasonably secure if you choose the right vendor and don't be stupid by installing random screensavers from dodgy websites.
            • by Lord Ender (156273) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @07:55PM (#15764564) Homepage
              Most end-user linux installs have one user who admins the maching with sudo. Anyone with any skill who writes a linux virus would simply make his code wait for the user to sudo, then install the rootkit.

              The one reason viruses aren't a problem in linux: fewer gullible users.
              The one reason worms aren't a problem in linux: the small number of diverse builds.

              User seperation has very little to do with it.
        • Which is why users should have absoloute minimal privileges...
          Really, users should rent computers, not have administrative privileges on them, and pay when they need support or for someone to install something for them etc, this would solve a lot of these problems, and provide the users with a source of help (so they don't need to hassle friends/family)
      • by stevey (64018) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @03:43PM (#15763916) Homepage
        A proactive system would patch the holes that are being exploited.

        The problem here is that virus don't typically exploit any hole. They are simply programs that run with the privileges of the user who executes them.

        A typical (old school) virus would do three things:

        • When executed find files that can be written to - pick one at random.
        • Update that program to append itself to the end of it. Patch the header so that execution starts at the newly appended code.
        • Work out where the currently infected program should have started execution from - jump to it.

        There are only two things you can do to protect against this, in general:

        • Don't run infected programs.
        • Don't allow the current user to modify binary files.

        In Windows it is the second issue which allows viruses to spread - typically the local user would have write access to the system binaries, so eventually Notepad.exe would get infected, etc. Under Linux/Unix root generally is the only person who can write to system binaries, so a typical user can't infect them.

        However Linux viruses do exist, and are trivial to write. The reason they don't spread is partly because users are used to getting their binaries from trusted sources, partly because they download things from source, and partly because most users don't run with the ability to modify system files. (Sure you might be able to infect ~/bin - but there isn't a big gain)

        Windows is getting better at allowing non-Administrators to work properly, so sooner or later the ability of joe-random-desktop user to modify system binaries will disapear and at that point viruss will stop. Still there will be worms, trojans, and all the other nasties left!

        I've gone on a bit much, but I wanted to drive the point home : Viruses do not exploit security holes. (In general)

    • by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @04:35PM (#15764090) Homepage Journal
      They are standard Web articles: Two paragraph summaries.

      At the rate things are going, article writers won't even bother with the body of the story any more, it will just be a title and ads.

  • by gasmonso (929871) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:36PM (#15763745) Homepage

    1. Firefox with popup blocker

    2. Firewall software

    3. Sit behind router

    4. Use AV software

    5. Don't click on anything that pops up without read it!

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
  • I don't use Norton.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ACAx1985 (989265)
    I don't use Norton not because I feel it's poor at catching/preventing viruses, but for the level of intrusion that comes with it. The Norton name, and especially Norton Ghost, are just a headache waiting to happen for anyone who installs it. I very happilly use FireFox 1.5 and the latest version of Nod32. Additionally, I don't open e-mails that promise a glimpse into Paris Hilton's private area. -ACA
  • Kaspersky? (Score:2, Interesting)

    FTFA:

    One vendor Ingram did mention was Russian outfit Kaspersky, which in the same tests managed to block around 90 percent of new malware.


    So what's Kaspersky doing that's making it so much better? Or was the study paid for by Kaspersky? It sounds suspiciously like FUD to me.

    • Re:Kaspersky? (Score:3, Informative)

      by WombatDeath (681651)
      The article suggests not that it's doing anything better, but that since it has only 0.8% of the market the malware authors don't bother to work around it.
  • by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:41PM (#15763762) Homepage
    testing their code on the most popular anti-virus software before release.
    Now that's good quality assurance. Many programmers have much to learn in this regard, though I suppose virus writers are motivated by doing what they love and not having to put up with PHBs, which are two amenities a lot of programmers have to do without. :)
  • I currently run the free edition of Avast! as my real time virus scanner, and ClamAV as a second layer of protection on Windows XP. I recently got infected with an Aol IM worm, which neither program could root out or detect...ended up having to get a free specialty program, AIMfix, to get the crap off my computer.

    Windows XP, Windows Defender, Windows Firewall, or Avast! should be able to prevent the worm from installing itself...Heck, my Ubuntu installation wouldn't let me install some stupid .inf type file
    • Sure it would, assuming you ran it as root - just like you run your Windows XP.

      True, XP is a huge pain to use without admin rights due to braindead apps, but that problem is going to get fixed soon with Vista, as it will push non-admin account as default, and developers have to get their braindead apps fixed.
      • and developers have to get their braindead apps fixed.

        Is that really going to happen? Most games require admin privileges because they install some kernel level driver for copy protection on run. Either they'll still run as admin, or the non-admin account will be admin in different clothes. Even if vista has a real non-admin mode, something is going to spectacularly fail.
      • by Apraxhren (964852) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @03:18PM (#15763857) Homepage
        XP is a huge pain to use without admin rights due to braindead apps
        I'm not sure if that is all that true anymore at least. Granted I don't run a vast amount of software but in my experience it seems more recent software tends to be non brain dead at least in the gaming industry. What was once one of the worst offenders, nearly everything used to write to the program files dir but now all the ones I have had experience with write to the user space. Every other program I run allows a choice of where to save data so they work perfectly as well. However, like I said I don't have every software title at my disposal and really it could just be luck in the programs I run. Aaron Margosis does an excellent job of providing all the information needed to run as non-admin on his blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/aaron_margosis/archive/2005/ 04/18/TableOfContents.aspx [msdn.com]
    • If you want the OS to protect you by denying you access make an admin and a non-admin account. Use the non-admin account for normal use, switch to the admin account if you need to install something.
  • Why is... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by twmf (990382)
    ...the endless repetition of the obvious considered news?

    Ummmmm...

    Aw crap. Sorry, forgot which planet I was on again.

    Please move along.

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:53PM (#15763796) Homepage

    The whole concept of recognizing known viruses was fundamentally flawed. It had a good run, but that was because virus writers were mostly trying to get attention, not steal. Now that viruses are an ongoing criminal enterprise, the old dumb tactics won't work.

    We're going to have to give up on recognition and put more effort into partitioning. We need setups where each web page renders in its own jail, and it doesn't matter if the browser is insecure - when the page closes, a program exits and any corrupted info goes away.

    Of course, this will break Active-X, toolbars, downloads, etc. Then again, on business systems, you want those things broken.

    Once the browser is locked down like that, you need a "guard" program. When you want to move a file out of a browser's jail, it has to go through a program that "sanitizes" it. Often, a translation to a well-documented format that doesn't contain execution capability will do the job. Converting incoming .doc files to Open Document XML format, for example.

    It's quite possible to completely solve this problem.

    • IMHO, the problem comes down to how security works on PC's - it's based on the user, not the app. This is true on Linux as well as Windows. An application runs under the security context of what the user can get to. Applications ought to run under their own security accounts, and when they try to write somewhere they have not been authorized to write before, the user ought to get warned. If the application makes an outbound Internet connection or starts listening on a port without prior authorization,

    • The whole concept of recognizing known viruses was fundamentally flawed. It had a good run,

      More than ten years ago, before windows 95, and most people were using DOS and DOS virus scanners, I had someone (comparable to a modern day script-kiddie) from my high school ask me to scan a disk to see if the viruses he had on there were detected. Even then he knew if the popular virus scanners of the day couldn't detect them, that he could potentially use them. It was then I realized that virus scanners were a jok
      • I don't know what you did, but I know what I would have done: I'd have gone away for a while, then brought his disk back and told him that my scanners had detected viruses on it. That way, there's no way whatever was on his disk could have infected my machine and he's left with the impression that his viruses were as useless as resistance to a Vogon.
    • Converting incoming .doc files to Open Document XML format, for example.

      It's quite possible to completely solve this problem.


      Completely? That's a strong word. What if someone finds a vulnerability in the jail code, or a buffer overflow in the Open Document XML parser? Everyone thought images were completely safe because there's no code, but a vulnerability [microsoft.com] was found nonetheless.

      LS
    • ok lets see so you think we need a layer of virualization in the os to secure one app?

      hypothetically lets say i've used a pc with far more layers than that.

      what do you do when you have a user who manages to get his access layer embedded with software from just about everyone?
    • Of course, just not executing arbitrary code downloaded from any page and making it obviouw what code will be executed* would go very far on the way of solving those problems.

      *You know, not embebeding code on images, and text files, requiring more than the name (or a hiden part of it) matching a template, or even not running automaticaly any code that a web page tell the browser to.

    • >a well-documented format that doesn't contain execution capability

      The program that reads that well-documented format might have a vulnerability which the theoretically non-executable file could exploit. That's happened in real life, with JPEG and PNG.

      Worse, the line between executables and data isn't as sharp as we usually think it is. After all, an executable is nothing but data for the CPU's decoder. We *hope* that $WORDPROCESSOR doesn't do anything except display documents in response to the instruct
  • What I do (Score:4, Informative)

    by shawn443 (882648) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:54PM (#15763800) Homepage
    Require all users to run as a limited user as per Principle of Least Privilege [microsoft.com]. This is the key. I once had a computer lab for inner city youth with no AV software at all, just limited user accounts and a simple router. Once we could afford Symantec AV Corporate (I work for a non profit) and ran the scans, no viruses. If anyplace was bound to get one, that would have been it.
  • Default Deny (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lapagecp (914156) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:55PM (#15763803)
    Say it with me people Default Deny, Say it louder now so that Microsoft can here it. Operating systems need to by default deny the right to execute. This whole let anything run unless it looks like a virus crap is not working. Oh and Microsoft that doesn't mean make a pop up so that someone can click "Yeah run it already." Every program shipped with the OS gets to run, every program you add to the list gets to run, maybe every program on a white list maintained by a person or company you trust gets to run, and thats it. Now before you all freak out and starting talking about linux and how you can already do this let you remind you that, everyone switch to linux, is not a valid solutions because its not going to happen anytime soon. Sure it works on a case by case basis but I still need to go in to work and be able to keep 30 or 40 computers safe and clean that are going to run on windows because thats what our software will run on. So Microsoft do you let anyone into every room in every building you own unless security sees them on a list or do you determine who can go where and then keep everyone one else out? Why is it that we are forced to use security that anyone can see hasn't worked in the past and has no hope of work in the future?
    • Re:Default Deny (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hackstraw (262471) *
      Operating systems need to by default deny the right to execute.

      Hmm. Like Linux/UNIX that does not store executable permissions on email attachments w/o user intervention? Like OS X's behavior to ask the user the first time they run an associated file with an app for the first time? Like viruses are a Microsoft problem, and not a feature of other OSes?

      I can't ever seem to type the last question here on /. without getting slammed, but when are people going to give up the drama and just use an OS that suit
    • Ummm ok (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)
      Default deny subject to who's overide authority? Remember: We are talking about a problem at home here. At work, things are already default deny, subject to my authority (or other members of our computer group). You don't get admin/root so you run only whats installed. Solaris or Windows, doesn't matter.

      Ok but what aobut at home? You are the admin there. Who looks over your shoulder and determines if something is safe? You can set the OS to default deny running things by running it as a non-administrative a
      • "I think some UNIX people put WAAAAAY too much faith in UNIX's privlidge escalation model"

        None of that is based on theory, but it's a complete result of actual practical experience. Installing AV scanners, running spybot/adaware, etc, is a Windows ritual, not a Unix ritual. Whatever the reason is for that doesn't matter, it just sucks balls on Windows and doesn't on BSD and Linux. On Windows, needing to work with AV software and adware killers has become the norm, while on Linux and BSD, viruses are 'proof
    • Default deny wouldn't help at all.

      The most common viruses are security exploits; a default deny policy would have no effect when the application being exploited would likely be on the white list anyway! And for the classical viruses attached to a legitimate looking file (or trojan passing itself off as a legitimate file), default deny only makes the user take a few extra steps before they fuck themselves over.

      The only thing you really accomplish is annoying users who have to take those same extra steps to r
  • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@@@gmail...com> on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:56PM (#15763805) Homepage
    I routinely get files [or browse for files] on random homebrew sites where "smart" people try and sneak a virus in there.

    AV isn't supposed to make your computer stupid-proof. If you download and run every single application you can find no AV in the world will help.

    If you happen to stumble on a 4 week old virus that either got bot-mailed to you or stored in a public archive they're a godsend. Specially since most AVs scan archives so before you even open it you're good.

    Tom
  • by chrysalis (50680) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @02:59PM (#15763813) Homepage
    What does an antivirus? It scans files and memory for known patterns in order to erase some bits. If 10 different viruses exploit the same flaw in 10 different ways, an antivirus requires 10 signatures to recognize them all (heuristics *are* signatures). Why don't antivirus vendors focus on providing workarounds for the actual Windows security flaws instead?
  • But... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @03:06PM (#15763824)

    Aren't most of the viruses and worms that are out there just variants of other viruses? It seems like most of the time that I hear about a "new" terrible virus, it's really a slightly modified version of one that's been around for awhile, and usually if you're up to date on your antivirus and security patches the new virus won't do anything anyway. And let's not forget that there are still plenty of old viruses on non-secured machines that an antivirus application will protect you from.

    I can see their point where people developing a new virus are concerned, but as the lifecycle of a virus is often longer than the time it takes to update the signatures, I think that they are overstating their case by saying that the AV apps "don't work."

    • Re:But... (Score:3, Informative)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      Aren't most of the viruses and worms that are out there just variants of other viruses? It seems like most of the time that I hear about a "new" terrible virus, it's really a slightly modified version of one that's been around for awhile

      All true, but your conclusion was false.

      The codebase between variants can easily be changed to the point where heuristics & previous def files will not recognize it.

      It's worse with a (encrypted) polymorphic virus, because those are hard enough for the anti-virus guys to

  • by creimer (824291) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @03:06PM (#15763829) Homepage
    ...by testing their code on the most popular anti-virus software before release.

    It's a sad state of affairs that worms, trojans and viruses are probably more tested before release than the anti-virus software.
    • You can wait years before releasing your malware (depending on your source of funding). For AV to be worth a damn, they want to release a signature update within hours or possibly days when a virus has come to their attention.
    • It's a sad state of affairs that worms, trojans and viruses are probably more tested before release than the anti-virus software.

      They're probably better tested than some companies operating systems, that's why they work....
  • by Null Nihils (965047) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @03:09PM (#15763835) Journal
    Once malicious code enters the "perimeter", so to speak, AV software is a rather weak stopgap measure. Software design flaws that result in holes can seldom be fixed by adding more surface area, it only becomes a matter of time before the attacker figures out the next step. The AV software companies know that most of their customers have no idea how computer security works. Antivirus provides some shallow peace of mind for Joe Average. It is not a very serious security measure and it should not be relied on as thus.

    I'm sure other posters will provide the real answers to security, like limited user access, a good firewall, not running intrusted code, and using a web browser that isn't garbage.

    I went for 3 years using just these precautions, but used no antivirus whatsoever. I never become infected by a single thing. I only recently grabbed ClamWin [clamwin.com], a port of ClamAV, for my Windoze box because I wanted to scan a program I got via P2P.
  • by Teilo (91279) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @03:24PM (#15763872) Homepage
    Both these articles read like they were written by an idiot. They do not make the distinction between the detection of known viruses, and the detection of unknown viruses via heuristics. And if you start calling heuristics a signature, you are going to confuse the heck out of everyone. Don't mix terminology.

    Honestly, I do not know anyone who believes that an AV program is going to protect them from unknown viruses! The whole point of AV software is to give you protection from viruses as they are discovered. I mean everyone knows that if they do not update their virus signatures on a constant basis (several times a day on my mail servers), they may as well not be running virus protection at all. OK. Maybe some people are dunces about this, but honestly, even my 81 year old grandmother knows that she has to keep her AV current, or she's unprotected.

    I mean, for crying out loud, what are these signure updates for? For catching known viruses. Mega duh!
  • I do follow basic common-geek-sense, but so far F-Secure hasn't failed me. Completely anecdotal, mind you...
  • Eye-Candy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 22, 2006 @03:43PM (#15763918)
    That's why: there is too much eye-candy!

    I gave up a long time ago on NAV because it had a heavy interface -- fancy background, fade in/out, and all the other stuff that don't really contribute to its operation, especially for an application whose GUI you don't really pop or see very often.

    Simple buttons and windows are enough, coupled with a good proper operation within a restricted account -- i.e. good communication with the service that runs in the background.

    That is why I like the free AVG option.
    • by sco08y (615665)
      That's why: there is too much eye-candy!

      That reminds me of when I wanted to bring my iBook into a library to use their network connection.

      The woman said, "you have to have AV software installed to use our network connection."

      So I fired up XCode, put together a dialog with a big SCAN button and a progress bar that slowly filled up.

      It still said "MyApplication" in the menu bar...
  • TFA claims that AV software doesn't work because malware writers testing their code on the most popular anti-virus software before release. All that really means is that they make sure that the AV programs can't already spot it. Once their malware's out in the wild, it will get spotted, analized, and the definitions rapidly updated to deal with it. All TFA actually says is that no AV softaere is going to spot/remove a new piece of malware on the first day. No fooling.
  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @03:55PM (#15763957) Homepage
    For home users, I tell them the following:

    1) You're not a company that gets thousands of virus-laden emails a day. You don't need to pay for Norton or McAfee. A 98-99% detection rate is perfectly adequate for a home user.

    2) Install AVG or Avast AV. They're free, they update automatically, they're light on resources and they work.

    3) Install Spybot Search and Destroy, SpywareBlaster, Ad-Aware and Windows Defender.

    4) Install a software firewall like Kerio or just use Windows XP's firewall. If you install Kerio, use V2.1.5 because it's non-intrusive. The later versions are too picky and get in your face.

    5) Stop using IE and use Firefox.

    6) Lately, since trojans are on the upswing, I say install A-Squared anti-trojan which is free with manual updates.

    7) Don't click on popups. Don't even click on the "No" button - click the window close button.

    8) Don't install anything offered you by a Web site unless the site is a general freeware or shareware site that explicitly states it checks for spyware and adware.

    9) Keep up with Windows updates and updates for the malware detector software.

    10) Run a scan once a week or if you see any popups at all.

    I've used these rules on Windows 98, 2000 and XP for four years with virtually NO spyware getting through - and that's with porn site visits and whatever else the Web can throw at me.

    The single most important rule is number 5 - use Firefox. With no ActiveX, the stuff can't get in unless you have an OS vulnerability or you deliberate install it in response to a prompt you don't understand.

    Finally, if they really want to be secure, switch to Mac or Linux.

  • The best you can say about the AV industry is that we finally found out, more or less, that the AV companies themselves aren't behind the malware.

    I wish I was a sleazy ruthless person. I could make millions off this idea: check your HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Run registry keys. Know what should be in there. 90% of the time you can detect when a virus or spyware is installed by looking there for things that don't belong.
  • by RexRhino (769423) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @05:07PM (#15764163)
    One of the easiest ways to protect yourself on Windows is to not run as Admin. Only log into admin when you want to install new software, or when you want to update Windows, etc. In my opinion this is way more effective than any AV software (although I would recommend AV anyway). I would say that 50% (at least) of the nasty things that happen to Windows machines are caused by the fact that people tend to run as Admin by default.

    People would never dream of running as root all the time on their Linux machine, yet those same people often run as an admin in Windows XP.
    • by smash (1351)
      The difference is, that Linux is usable by a power user without logging in as root, via use of SUDO (or SU) to do what you need to do when you need to do it.

      Windows is getting better in that respect (run-as), but it's still not exactly functional in my experience.

      Half the games out there need to run as administrator - and if you're going to suggest I go through and figure out how to set them up not to, then that defeats the purpose of using windows because it's "easy to use"...

  • by kimvette (919543) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @05:25PM (#15764215) Homepage Journal
    Scientists discover that polio vaccines don't work against other diseases. Details at 11.

    Seriously, this isn't news. This was obvious from the time where any signature updates were ever required, or when viruses, scumware, etc. included code to disable/corrupt/uninstall/otherwise cripple antivirus and antispyware software. They're merely admitting it now.
  • Munir is a mole. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lantastik (877247) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @05:39PM (#15764255)
    He always has been and always will be. His articles are practically marketing material for Kaspersky labs. First of all, write an article stating the obvious and then back it up with some arbitrary figures without displaying any real results.

    For your reference (I made sure to use the Google cache so you can see the highlighting):
    Hmmmm...what sole vendor was interviewed for this article? [64.233.167.104]
    I wonder who the focus of this article is... [64.233.167.104]
    My goodness! Another article from Munir which focuses on Kaspersky. Who would have guessed? [64.233.167.104]
    Which company did Munir get a virus analyst from to comment on this article? [64.233.167.104]

    Now that is some quality, unbiased reporting for you. Don't believe Munir's BS, it's a load of crap.
  • by buss_error (142273) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @09:17PM (#15764729) Homepage Journal
    Speaking only for a Windows world....

    As currently written, all anti-virus software will fail. The simple reason is that because anti-virus depends on a signature or a synthisis of actions to identify what is "bad" and what is "good". Last time I looked, using a moral imparitive in programming wasn't a system call. Like spam, viruses are not a technical problem, it is a human problem.

    The chief problem is that anti-virus is a defensive posture. Sooner or later, any defense will fail, if only because it becomes outmoded and/or out flanked. Defend only the walls, you leave yourself open for an air attack. You see the quandry here: It is impossible to know all the various ways to mount an attack and defend against all of them.

    You can do what many companies have started to do: Prohibt execuitbles in AD policy that are not specifically allowed. This protects (mostly, somewhat) corporate america, but doesn't protect the home user that doesn't have an active directory server, and likely wouldn't put up with that kind of restriction anyway.

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @09:23PM (#15764746) Homepage Journal
    every application that runs on your computer should have its own address space and it should not be allowed to cross into other applications' address spaces, however this is not the case in MS Windows OS.

    I gues we may want to rethink what a computer actually is.

    I guess it should be possible to write (or use existing) virtualization software and run each application in its own virtual computer, give each application its own 'harddrive' without access to the rest of the disk, and most importantly make sure that the application cannot cross its VMs boundaries. Obviously each application that is not the OS itself should have run as a user and not as an administrator, but in a VM it shouldn't even matter that much.

    To share data between applications that really need sharing, it should be possible to open 'network' connections.

    In case when Intel or some other chip manufacturer will come up with multi-core processors (real multi-core, something like 10-1000 cores per CPU,) each application could also run in its own real processor space. A CPU could be rated something like: 100 simultaneous processes, and actually really run 100 simultaneous processes without time-slicing. Wouldn't that be a day? To accomodate memory per process, there could also be another independent administrator process runing, that would detect real time memory requests and manage memory accordingly (it could prepare memory ahead of time to avoid bottlenecking.)

    It also should be possible to run an image of the OS per process (but this should be optional, depending on the tasks at hand.) Of-course a CPU like that would also be great for parallelizing threads in processes (if there are resources.)

    In a computer like that, with each program only being able to affect its own computer space (CPU, RAM, disk space, network,) it should be possible to detect unwanted behaviour that could be caused by a virus. Attempts at 'networking' to the administration process, attempts at gaining unauthorized disk space, attempts at 'networking' with any other processes in the computer can be intercepted. In case when a virus (or a poorly written piece of software) behaves suspiciously or deadlocks or crashes or whatever, the rest of the machine should be protected and unaffected. The misbehaving process can be killed by the administration process and restarted or scanned and repared etc.

    I don't think the future of the home computers is in bigger gigahertz numbers, it is at parallelizing, virtualizing, making the software more stable and less dangerous for everyone.
  • by Mantrid42 (972953) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @10:34PM (#15764866)
    So does this mean that I'm better off using an AV that isn't widely used? Is this one case where security through obscurity is actually valid?
  • obscurity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by akhomerun (893103) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @11:55PM (#15765019)
    security by obscurity is still one of the best ways to keep yourself secure. whether it be macintoshes, or just leaving your house's spare key in a really good hiding spot, obscurity is one of the oldest security features around.

    obviously, what you need is an obscure anti virus app that's also really protective (as in put your spare key in a safe and hide it).

    of course problem with that is that if an antivirus product works well, it doesn't stay obscure for long.

    man i'm really stating the obvious here. i'm done now.

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