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The best anti-spyware, anti-virus … and dancing bunnies?

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This is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary, and answers to some of the many questions I get at askleo.com.

A couple of frequent questions I get here at ask-leo are “What Anti-Spyware program should I use?” and “What’s the best Anti-Virus program?”

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Now, while I use and recommend Microsoft’s Anti-Spyware, and have used Computer Associate’s eTrust anti-virus software for many years Microsoft Security Essentials, I have to remind people that there’s no perfect example of either. All of the anti-spyware programs miss things that some of the others might catch. Same for the anti-virus programs. That’s why my real recommendation is typically to run one of the better ones, but have a couple of others in reserve, just in case.

But make sure you run *something* for both spyware and viruses and keep the databases for each as up to date as possible.

Hacker's HandI was reminded of this the other day when I stumbled onto a posting on Larry Osterman’s weblog. Larry’s a long time Microsoft developer who started there a year after I did. He recently posted about how someone else had made the claim that a properly designed operating system shouldn’t need any anti-virus or anti-spyware software. Larry pointed out the more practical reality of the situation in what has been termed the “dancing bunnies” problem.

It works like this: if typical users receive an email that says, “Click here to see dancing bunnies,” then a significant number of them are going to circumvent any protections the system might have in place, because they want to see the dancing bunnies, dammit.

That’s the heart of what’s been called social engineering – promise something you know people will react to to get them to allow whatever else you really had in mind.

At that point, it doesn’t matter what the ideal operating system is or even the best anti-spyware or anti-virus software is. Users need to be protected by *something* that makes sure that what the user just clicked on, or ran, or even installed is “safe” by someone’s definition.

You could claim that users should be educated so that they don’t need to be protected from themselves. Theoretically, you might be right.

But practically? Well, we all like to see dancing bunnies sometimes.

Have a comment? Visit ask leo dot info, and enter 8873 in the go to article number box please leave it below. Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from you. I’ve got links to Larry Osterman’s “Beware of the dancing bunnies”
Post, as well as my anti-spyware and anti-virus recommendations.

9 comments on “The best anti-spyware, anti-virus … and dancing bunnies?”

  1. I’ve long said: “If you think you’ve created a foolproof system, you just haven’t encountered a dedicated enough fool.”

    Osterman’s article is interesting in that it posits that the same user who calls tech support when he accidentally kicks his monitor’s plug out of the power strip will somehow be able to infect himself with W32.DancingBunnies, despite the most carefully crafted defenses against him doing so.

    So, one could infer from this that many of the so-called doofuses are not so stupid. They’re just lazy.

    Assume I’m Joe User: If my monitor doesn’t work, where’s my incentive to fix it? I’ve got the perfect excuse to call IT, then go out for a smoke and a long latte break while I wait for them to diagnose the problem. But if Anna Kournikova’s bare behind is within grasp of my beady little eyes, I’m going to try every trick I know and maybe invent a few to try to get at it.

    And if I get infected? I have another excuse to call IT and then go on a long break.

    So this should be the policy: “We’ve done everything we can to make it difficult to let you infect your PC with a virus. If you are smart enough to get around the defenses, then you’re darn well smart enough to clean up your mess.”

  2. I run Mac System 10.5.4. What software do you recommend for protection against virus, spyware, etc. for Macs?

  3. Hi Leo,
    I’ve searched your article high & low but cannot find the link to the ‘dancing bunnies’. Did you forget to put it in? !!!

  4. @KMR Pops
    It’s the last link in the “You may also be interested in:” section.
    I bet you just want to see the dancing bunnies.:-)

  5. I think Kaspersky is the best. I used to have MacAfee on a older laptop and what do you know, nice virus asking for permission to do something with the SMART settings. I guess anti virus do have there loop holes to get around it. I have had numerous attempts with Kaspersky and I have yet to get a virus with 2 years of running it. Were as only a year with MacAfee. I am not bashing MacAfee but this is my personal experience. Oh and installing Kaspersky pure 3.0 on the older laptop found and got rid of the virus giving the laptop a new meaning.

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