Do I need anti-virus software?

06 Apr 2011


There are some common sense rules in life that we just know to follow. Always look both ways before crossing the road, make sure you remember your mother’s birthday and never, ever trust the British weather. But in this digital age, should using anti-virus software now be added to the list?

You can’t use a thermometer to check if your computer has a virus…

A week rarely goes by without a story warning of the dangers of using the internet. They range from viruses crippling multinational company networks to Doris from Margate having her credit card details swiped online.

But computer operating systems and programs are quite sophisticated these days and seem to look after themselves. Users of Microsoft’s Windows will be familiar with ‘Patch Tuesday’, where newly-found holes in the operating system are closed. They also come with built-in firewalls and options to make your computer more secure.

So with all the hard work seemingly being taken care of, do we need to go through the rigmarole of installing anti-virus software anymore?

First of all, you should know what you’re up against. Computer virus is a catch-all name for malware, Trojans, spyware, adware and most rootkits.

You can avoid many viruses by sticking to trusted websites and thinking twice before clicking on dodgy-looking links. But even if you’re careful, viruses can still hide in email attachments and shared USB sticks.

Viruses are no fun for your computer and can cause it to slow down significantly. Some viruses may prevent your PC from booting up, while others will cause damage to vital system files. You also need to consider the personal details you have on your computer, as they could fall into the wrong hands if you get a virus.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, even if you don’t have a virus scanner you’ll probably already have your first line of defence in gear…

Microsoft’s operating system comes with a firewall built in to keep out unwanted programs. The Windows firewall has been getting gradually stronger with each update. You can simply switch it on or customise the settings so you know what each program is up to.

Some Apple Mac users believe that their computers cannot be hit by viruses, but unfortunately it’s a bit of a myth. Rogue programmers who create viruses target them at certain systems.

As there are so many PCs compared to Macs, most viruses have been targeted at PCs to cause the maximum amount of problems. But Mac owners certainly shouldn’t be complacent about their security.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is particularly keen for those running small businesses to keep their systems secure.

An ICO spokesman said: “When using computer systems the ICO recommends that all organisations install a suitable firewall and anti-virus checker as well as the latest security patches or security updates, which should cover vulnerabilities.

“They should also consider the installation of an appropriate anti-spyware tool and look at wider security issues.”

Given the strife and potential expense that a virus could cause through damage to your computer and a loss of data, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution and install some quality anti-virus software.

There’s no shortage of software to choose from… You can buy one copy of Norton AntiVirus and install it on up to three computers, which is handy when you want to protect the whole family.

Kaspersky’s anti-virus software is brilliant if you’re using a computer in a networked office, while AVG and ZoneAlarm are major names that you may have seen on the web.

While operating systems and programs may be taking extra precautions to ensure their products aren’t left open to the nasty elements of the internet, it’s still better to be safe than sorry.

Anti-virus software isn’t very expensive, so while you can run the risk of not using it, it’s worth securing your computer properly if only for peace of mind.

Have computer viruses caused you trouble in the past? What did you have to do to resolve the problems? Comment below…