I have to admit something: I’m an antivirus snob. For years, I’ve considered myself too PC-savvy to use antivirus software. I’ve spent my entire life around computers, and I can usually spot malware from a mile away.
So how’s my track record? I haven’t been completely virus free. But over the last few years, I’ve probably had 3 to 5 serious virus problems. When I get a virus, I’ll install a free antivirus program, which generally gets rid of the problem. Only once have I had a virus so serious that I had to reformat my operating system. Thankfully, I had a recent backup on which to rely.
That’s why I was surprised to stumble upon an article on HowToGeek called “Why You Should Use Antivirus, Even If You Browse Carefully.” I’ll give it to HowToGeek: they know their audience. I’m sure plenty of HowToGeek readers are in the same mindset as I am, thinking they’re too ‘smart’ for antivirus software.
So what kind of arguments did HowToGeek use to convince people like me to turn on their antivirus software?
Zero day exploits mean nobody is ever safe
Zero day exploits are among the most dangerous virus problems available today. Zero day exploits refer to exploits that are found before a software update gets released to the public. There may have been an early beta release of that software, for example, where the hacker discovered a serious vulnerability that wasn’t patched before the final release.
Zero day exploits are dangerous because even those who keep their software fastidiously updated are susceptible to this problem. Let’s say there’s a zero day exploit for Chrome or Firefox. Suddenly, your browsing session turns into a game of Russian Roulette – one wrong click and your computer has a serious virus.
Although zero day exploits are patched as soon as they’re found, they can still exist for anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, during which time hackers have an incredible advantage over the average PC user.
Even the most trustworthy websites can be infected
If you read the above paragraphs and thought, “well, I don’t care, I only visit trustworthy websites anyway”, then you’re not quite as smart as you may think you are. You see, viruses can infect any website – even the most trustworthy sites are vulnerable to the occasional virus attack.
And when a virus attacks a legitimate and trustworthy website, things are generally bad. Suddenly, people like me and HowToGeek readers who rarely use antivirus software may be dealing with a serious malware infection.
Why wouldn’t you run one?
Here’s a good point: there isn’t really a good reason to not run antivirus software. Most of today’s top antivirus programs use such a small amount of resources that they don’t really affect performance. And you can turn off antivirus software to a point where all notifications are disabled, although the program is still technically running in the background.
In other words, you would barely know a virus is there until you absolutely need it. It doesn’t affect your life or your PC in any negative way, so what’s stopping you from running one?
You’re not always the problem
Let’s say someone else is using your computer. If you have kids, then they may not know how to spot a malicious software program before it’s installed. Or, you could have friends using your computer when they come over, or your mom could visit and check her email on your system.
The point is: if you have other people using your computer, then all arguments about how you practice ‘smart browsing’ go out the window: consider everybody else is an idiot about computers, and you start to understand why installing antivirus software is more and more important.
Your final layer of protection
Viruses, malware, and hackers have to get through a lot of protection in order to attack your computer. Unless they get lucky and exploit a browser vulnerability or a shady website, it’s fairly tough to take over today’s computers when the user is smart.
But if your threat detection lapses for just a minute, that may be all it takes to click ‘Yes’ on a malicious software installation prompt. And once that malicious software is installed, you don’t have a final layer of protection behind you.
Of course, this argument could also work as justification for the other side: do I really need that final layer of protection if I practice smart browsing?
Are you convinced?
What do you think? Are you still too smart for antivirus software? Or are you already looking for the best free antivirus software available today?