Why is using a constant virus scanner on my PC such a big deal?

*this is part rant and part serious question

Why do people tell me I am foolish for not using a virus scanner on my computer? Every time this comes up in conversation, people look at me like I’ve been having unprotected sex with hookers. Do people really infect their computers with that many viruses when not using one?

I’ve been into computers for at least twelve years. I’ve gone from win98, to win2k pro, and last year I finally upgraded to XP. In that entire time, last week was the first time I’ve actually gotten a computer virus. I was googling a term I didn’t know the meaning of (‘yiffing’, don’t google that btw) and like an idiot clicked on a website that was blatantly shady. I was drunk and it was my fault, but it only took me about half an hour to put things right again.

I’ve used my fair-share of bittorrent, warez sites, free internet porn, lyrics sites, shady application download sites, and plenty of others. My point is that through all of this, I’ve only had that one virus out of tens of thousands of hours of computing time. As long as you aren’t opening up e-mail attachments from Russia, or saying “Yes, install this unknown app” to every website that asks, or opening .exe files from Shady McShaderson’s Emporium of Illegal Files, you are not going to get a virus!

And even if you do, so what? Boot from another hard drive, run a free one-time virus scan like AVG or Housecall, and voila problem solved. Worst case scenario you just completely delete the affected files, remove their registry entries, and reinstall your OS.

So why the heck are people paying Norton and other companies for these crazy subscription fees for unnecessary bloat-ware that slows down your computer? I just don’t get it and hope someone can enlighten me.

Do you know if you have any trojans on your system? If you wait until they pop up, do you realize how many others you may have passed them on to?

Wouldn’t my firewall program notice the outgoing traffic from an unknown source?

Bah, on re-reading my OP I failed to mention I do a full scan maybe once a year, always come back clean.

It’s easier to get people to install an antivirus program once (and have it automatically update and run in the background) than to convince them to change their online behavior. If they currently have unsafe online behavior, they probably aren’t going to change any time soon. Thus, an antivirus is something they can usually ignore, will add some level of security to their system.

I agree that if you take reasonable precautions, an antivirus program running constantly is unnecessary. I don’t run one on most of my systems. I only installed one recently when I thought I might have a virus. (Turns out the corrupted downloads and weird Internet behavior was due to a wireless card that is either dying, or way, way, way too covered in dust. I should really clean this thing.)

That is not a trivial task for most people.

I agree completely. I now run a virus checker for technical reasons (my corporate network won’t allow me to connect remotely without it – and it checks), but for a decade and a half before that I ran one only on the customer-case build machine. I haven’t seen a virus in all that time, and the checker now has never given me anything other than a false positive.

But I (and you, apparently) are not normal. I don’t have kids, elderly parents, a lot of peer-to-peer apps, or a gullible nature toward pop-ups, e-mails, and downloaded apps. I take precautions with media given to me by others. Most of my co-workers, all information workers of one sort of another, are similar.

But the general population is not. As required by the Constitution, I’m tech support for an extended network of friends, family, neighbors, and random people who send me mail asking for help because one of the above “told them to.” I have never seen a computer used by a teenager that doesn’t have multiple viruses on it. (If the teenager is a boy, it also has porn – and yes, I can find it). In fact, I rarely see a home computer at all that doesn’t have viruses on it, unless it’s running a virus checker. (Macs excepted; I’ve not seen a Mac virus in the wild. Ever.)

Given the choice between educating the entire population about a constantly evolving stream of threads and malware, or installing a cheap/free virus checker on everybody’s system by default, I vote the latter. As a general rule, if they learn enough to be able to uninstall the virus checker, they know enough to protect themselves without it.

It’s a good practice to tell the world that everyone needs a virus scanner than to quantify who may need one and when. All the people who do use birth control and protection against STDs and get vaccinated against the latest flu DO make a difference. So do the people who abstain from sex and wash their hands and wear a mask.

It is important to the general population to do regular virus blocking and scanning. If you’re careful and know what you’re doing, then no, you’re not an idiot for not running an anti-virus app.

Although, having one around and regularly updated that does nightly or even weekly scans is much handier than relying on the fact that you’ll actually have internet connectivity any time you pick something up, in order to run an online scan. Not having something local and current IS risky in that regard.

I’ve only picked up maybe 3 viruses in 20 years of computing. Is it because I’m careful or is it because I’m always protected? I don’t do much real-time scanning anymore so it’s probably more of the former, but AV apps are free and can be configured to be un-intrusive, so I always have one installed. I also take the Pill even when I go long stretches without having sex, and get vaccinated even though I’m not in a high-risk group. This sort of stuff is just pre-planning to avoid the bullshit of having to deal with that .1% chance I might fall victim to something nasty. Easier than dealing with something nasty.

When I was in grad school, we got a statistics program from a known company. It shipped with a virus on the disc, and my computer got hit, as did others. So I don’t even trust “known sites” - then again, I also don’t believe that my AV program or anti-trojan program will always save me, either.

I run linux. What is this “virus” thing of which you speak???:smiley:


I run Windows. Have for years. As in - Win 3.1, Win 95, Win 98, Win 2K, Win XP, Vista, 7.

My basic virus protection is this:
[li]I’m not a damned fool[/li][li]I don’t open anything that can execute pain on me[/li][/ol]

Maybe once every two years, I’ll start feeling guilty. “Maybe I do have a virus or two…I suppose I’d better run a check.”

So I’ll run a free one. Full system colonoscopy. I usually use AVG or Panda, I like both.

I have never, ever found anything. Nor have I ever suffered anything on my PC that makes me even think I might have a virus.

My personal opinion is that computer viruses, much like human sexually transmitted diseases, only happen when you’re careless. And I never am.

I don’t go to shady sites, or download things, or open suspicious emails. And yet, I’m constantly getting messages that my computer is under attack and Norton AntiVirus is trying to stave off the invasion. Why am I getting eight zillion trojans from just checking my email and posting on message boards?

Because you’re using Norton, which may be the noisiest AV there is. It doesn’t make noise because it saw a trojan, it makes noise because you opened a file, because you connected to the internet, because you opened a browser, because you played music, because… It’s the equivalent of someone who kept saying “I’m alive! I’m alive!” Yes, you are: now shut the hell up if you want to stay that way.

My main reason of doing so is that the downsides are minimal. Even on my crappy computer, having Avira running does not noticeably slow anything down.

Not a very good rule in my opinion. Anyone who knows how to uninstall a program can uninstall an antivirus. This includes p2p freaks who always download the latest games. They’re probably the highest risk group, and you better bet they know how to shut off the antivirus.

I just copied some files from a friend who told me “I find installing virus scan a waste of time”. After the copy has finished, my AVG Virus Scan detected a trojan sneaking onto my computer.

I see it as part of my responsibility to ensure that my hard-disk, and portable hard-disk, stays free of virus, even though I rarely get the dreaded real-time virus detection (once a year? The last time I got it was…I can’t even remember!)

Even so, my line of work as a web software developer reminds me to keep my portable media and hard disk clean. I could easily upload an infected HTML/PHP/image file onto a web server and anyone caching those files when they surf the site will be infected, and that will cause untold damage to my company. As such, even though I don’t do dumb things like opening strange attachments*, I take it upon myself to make sure my hard disk is clean.

*I was expecting a parcel from UPS and was checking my mail if there is any tracking email from them, and at that time, there was a UPS phishing email with a suspicious attachment. However, as I was really awaiting some news from UPS, I was just a mouse click away from downloading the attachment. At least if I did open it, a virus scan would save me from lots of grief.

I have one running once a week while I’m asleep. I had a trojan about 4 years ago but that’s about it.

Because it is the equivalent of having unprotected sex with hookers and then screwing everyone you know in their sleep.

The one time I’ve encountered a virus on a computer I own was on a factory sealed copy of MS-DOS 5.0.

I would guess that you have a friend or family member - someone who emails you regularly - who doesn’t know that his computer is infected and who keeps sending you toxic sludge.

When I read the thread title, I thought this was going to be a thread about how running a background virus scan is no big deal, so why do people act like they have to move Mt. Rushmore a few inches to the left?

I too have been online since Win 3.1. Antivirus scanners have come a long way. I’m using Microsoft Security Essentials, at the moment, on Win7. It’s free. It runs in the background. It scans things as I download (and I download a lot). Once a week it does a full scan. What’s the hardship?

As for why - it’s a little like asking why should you backup your files? Yeah, you probably won’t need it. Yeah, your hardware probably won’t crap out. But if it does, and you weren’t protected - you’ll feel like a freaking moron.

This is why I have multiple e-mail addresses. Only a handful of people have my actual e-mail address, people who can be trusted to keep their machines clean. The rest get various Yahoo and Gmail addresses that have decent malware and virus filters.

Just a virus scan? Then you won’t know what other malware you have. Your PC could well be part of a botnet and no, you wouldn’t know it.