My Anti-Virus Revolving Door

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2006-06-27 Print this article Print

Opinion: I'm the Donald Trump of anti-virus software testing. It won't be long before they're all fired.

I consider it part of my job to run as many different anti-virus products as I can on my network. Its for the same reasons that I make a point of using both Internet Explorer and Firefox, but swapping around anti-virus software is much harder. In the last two or three years Ive run Norton, McAfee, Trend, BitDefender, CA, Panda, ClamAV, Grisoft, Sophos and F-Secure, and Ive just installed Kaspersky. Im probably forgetting a couple of them too.

When they say familiarity breeds contempt theyre not entirely on-point. I dont stick with any of these products long enough to get familiar with them, and I hate them all. I havent really made up my mind about Kaspersky, which has an excellent reputation among the more technical anti-malware crowd, but in the two days Ive been running it Ive already had problems.

Heres something you might not have guessed, although it makes sense when you think about it. Malware researchers dont run anti-virus software. It gets in the way. I dont fancy myself all that serious a researcher, but I keep at least one machine without anti-virus software so that I can test suspicious files. If I need to scan something I just send it to VirusTotal, (one of the great research sites on the Net).

These days Im tempted to dump my anti-virus software as well, and I get a lot of viruses in my e-mail. Ive had bad luck with a lot of the software crashing my system, slowing it to a crawl at some points, and lying to me about when my license expires.

Ive had that last problem recently with both Norton Antivirus and Trend Internet Security. This blog thread and this one about Norton activation problems generated long threads of users saying, mostly, "me too!" Incidentally, I did ask Symantec about the problems and never got a response. Trend Micros Internet Security suite started telling me I had to renew about six months before the expiration date. I decided not to fight on that one and just move on.

Are security software prices too high? Click here for Larry Seltzers take.

CAs product gave me only about two months on my one-year subscription before it started telling me to buy another year. Time to uninstall and move on to the next one. You might have guessed I usually get eval copies of these programs. If I had paid I might be willing to spend more time trying to get tech support, but I have no patience for these things. I do usually buy anti-virus software when I buy a new computer, and I bought the copy of Kaspersky Antivirus Im using.

From there I moved to F-Secure Internet Security and quickly developed a problem: I have to use the Cisco VPN client for work and whenever I connected to the VPN on a system with F-Secure loaded (I tried this on two separate systems), the computer blue-screened and rebooted. F-Secure is still investigating.

Next page: My Kaspersky phase.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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