How important is antivirus software these days?

I’m mostly Mac at home but do have a Win XP laptop I have used with instruments and for programming. I’ve never networked it or used it online, and never put any antivirus software on it. It’s amazing how fast it boots, and getting things to work is often easier on it.

If I wanted to use it on my home network (with always-on broadband internet), how important would it be to install antivirus and other security software? Let’s say I might not even browse with it, but only use it for non-Web purposes. Or let’s say I might browse a little, like looking at major news sites and coming here.

I read recently that according to Symantec about 30% of small business computers run no antivirus software. This is amazing - I’d have guessed something like 1%. And I’ve heard elsewhere that antivirus isn’t necessary anymore, or only in some circumstances.

What say the Dopers?

I’d say, extremely important. Particularly with XP, which has older versions of IE which won’t be updated.

Use Firefox/Chrome/Safari (or whatever other than IE) for browsing, and definitely install antivirus.

XP has one built in, but I prefer Comodo or AVG - both free and both pretty good.

Note - browsing is not the only way to get a virus. Infected thumb drives, shared portable hard drives, ipods, iphones etc can all spread viruses.

It’s fairly important. Only the most savvy of computer users could risk going without it, and even then, you’re taking a chance.

I use Microsoft Security Essentials. It would be an inconvenience if my computer caught a virus, but it would be damn irresponsible if I allowed one to be passed to people I communicate with.

Pretty darn important, computer savvy or not.

When I started my current job my work PC didn’t have antivirus software installed. A few months later I got hit with “Malware Defense,” an odious bit of malware that masquerades as a legitimate program but hijacks Internet Explorer, pops up fake warnings that you are infected with every virus known to computerkind, and sticks shortcuts to porn sites on your desktop. I wasn’t looking at a “questionable” website; in fact I don’t think I even had IE open.

(I told the office manager, and all I will say is that she was less than helpful.)

Thankfully I was able to find a removal guide on bleepingcomputer and get rid of it on my own; after I got Malwarebytes and antivirus (free AVG) to run it found a shit-ton of other bugs. I’m not sure if “Malware Defense” broguht them along for the ride or if they had been lurking on the computer since way before I started.

Also older versions of Java and Adobe Reader have glitches that can be exploited so it’s important to keep them updated as well.

Yes. There are more people online now than ever before, and the number grows every day. That means there’s more people who don’t know what they’re doing, more people to get infected, and more “script kiddies” who figure out how to write viruses and release them for shits 'n giggles.

I personally also find a problem with all of the opensource, free web site platforms (Wordpress, Joomla, etc) that I feel get more hackable and more hacked as they get more popular, but that’s me going down a rabbit hole.

The good news is that we’re no longer indebted to McAffee or Norton for AV. Very good AV is free now, and if you don’t like one there are plenty more out there for free.

Personally I do not like AVG anymore as it is too bloaty. I use Microsoft Security Essentials on all my machines and my “stable” of family machines. Been using it 6-12 months and so far so good.

I use WebRoot on Win 7 and Google Chrome. I’ve never had a message regarding something terrible being blocked, found, etc. But then, I don’t go on the bad side of the tracks when I use the net.

I do get a lot of cookies blocked due to spyware at times.

My opinion, it’s not as important as it once was, but it’s still a necessary item.

Could 30% of small business computers really be going without? I got this figure from the Wikipedia article about “antivirus software”.

IME, antivirus is good for telling you you have a virus, but it doesn’t stop that many. By that, I mean, I rarely actually have it catch anything being downloaded or installed, it tells me I have a virus after it has hit my computer and can’t do anything to fix it.

I do run virus scans on all the files I download though, because it doesn’t cost anything to do so.

It is incredibly irresponsible not to use anti-virus software unless you live on a desert island by yourself with a single PC that only you use. I work in IT for a mega-corp and we get by viruses every day somewhere. Most viruses don’t do anything noticeable to the user. They meant to spread to someone that they can affect like someone running the software that they target. The fact that you haven’t had your hard drive wiped clean yet isn’t the point nor the way most viruses work.

If you don’t use anti-virus software, you are every bit as naive, gullible, and irresponsible as the anti-vaccine crowd for kids. It may not affect you for a long time because other people are taking the sensible precautions and not spreading it but you are raising your hand to be a carrier. That is not ethical.

Not using anti-virus software deliberately adds serious points to your ‘bad person’ score. It it is like you celebrate AIDS eradication day in the future by having as much unprotected sex as you can.

You should also have an anti-virus on your Mac, it’s not like they’re 110% rock solid immune. As they increase their marketshare as home computers, they are also increasingly becoming targets for viruses.

The computer savvy are safe. I stay on the other side of the tracks everyday and know how to avoid viruses. I’m the gangster of the internet. My virus protection is always expired for some goddamn reason (freeware, avast). So I just travel these webs with a glass of water and a big ol’ bookbag. I never have problems anymore, thats only because I’ve learned from my mistakes.

One thing that scares the shit out of me is keyloggers, they can be inserted into any download and you would never know. Protection can pick up the “known” keyloggers but I’m willing to bet it is very easy to make them unknown.

A lot of business have linux based systems and that helps explain why no antivirus.

I agree with the poster who mentioned Java and Adobe.

MSE (Miscrosoft Security Essentials) will catch something then, a few hours later, Java or Flash will want to auto update to patch the hole found.

I used to use AVG but since version 11 it doesn’t work well anymore. I now use MSE and Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware and Spybot. The three of them together seem to keep everything under check

I would consider myself very computer savvy: I dual-boot Linux and Windows on my desktop and FreeBSD and Windows on my laptop. And just this past Christmas I got a virus on my Windows machine. I believe that a compromised ad server served me a trojan embedded in a flash ad, that used a flash exploit to infect my computer. All because I forgot to install anti-virus(+ I don’t like dealing with NoScript and the link). If you browse the web, their will be bugs in whatever you’re using to browse, and some of those bugs will be exploitable. You really aren’t safe.

Anti-virus software makes sense in a corporate IT setting. But I think you’re overstating the case for AV software more generally.

I currently do not run any AV software. I do not consider myself reckless or akin to anti-vaxxers. The chances of my system becoming infected are slim. (I would never say it’s impossible, of course!) The biggest two problems I see with AV as a security tool are: (1) It’s almost entirely reactive. Until the AV is updated to recognize that particular virus, the chances of it being detected are remote. The activity of the virus might trigger some heuristic rule, but that’s not very reliable. (2) If it’s running on the same system as it’s scanning, then the potentially compromised system is in charge of checking itself. Its results are therefore unreliable.

I also think that AV may make some people complacent. It’s easy to download, install, and set it up for regular scans and updates. But if that’s the only security precaution one takes, one might as well not even bother.

Rysto, how do you know that AV software would have prevented the problem? Your point about there always being bugs (which I agree with completely) applies to AV software as well.

I think the most important thing, even much more so than antivirus software, is keeping your browser, all of its plugins (flash, java, adobe reader, and whatever else you have installed), and your operating system always completely up to date. I really cannot emphasize that enough. I got infected a couple times over the years, and I’m pretty sure every time they got in by exploiting bugs in those components. I only very rarely download any software, and I’m a pretty hard core software developer and I keep a very close eye on everything that goes on in my system.

In my opinion, antivirus software are really not all that reliable. They never detected anything wrong the few times that I got infected. Everytime, I detected something was going on because I noticed strange files in my tmp directory, or there were extra running processes that I didn’t recognize or uncommanded suspicious network activities.

And the really computer savvy know there’s no such thing as “safe”.

There’s no reason not to run a program like MSE. It’s free. It’s lightweight. It runs in the background. It updates on its own. It automatically scans downloaded files. It’s not like the old days when Macafee could make a good computer weep tears of silicon.

It’s true that AV software might not help you if you’re Patient Zero in a brand new outbreak. But not running it isn’t going to save you either, in that case. In the meantime, it will keep the hordes of old, familiar, scoundrels at bay.

There’s no down side to using anti-virus software.

Because they keep their systems updated and run an up-to-date antivirus program? :smiley:

Computer savvy hermits might be safe. Anyone else, assuming they want to be able to connect their machine to a network or insert media, or install additional software, or essentially just use it, is potentially vulnerable.

The whole ‘computer savvy people are safe’ thing is absurd. It’s like saying that clever people don’t need condoms for safe sex.