NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, May 2008
Excellent Quality Free Antivirus Software
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

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http://free.grisoft.com - AVG
http://www.avast.com - AVAST
http://www.free-av.com - AVIRA
http://antivirus.comodo.com - COMODO

According to recently published statistics, there were about a million new malware items released in 2007. Many of these new threats to our computing security and safety were viruses. While there are currently greater threats than viruses in wide circulation, such as spyware, computer viruses still are a credible threat. It is absolutely imperative that all PCs have functional and updated antivirus software running at all times. Viruses can attack a computer through the internet connection, from emails, compromised websites, and from infected media such as floppies, flash drives, CDs, and DVDs. While there is some performance penalty from having antivirus software installed, there is no good reason why antivirus software should not be installed and frequently updated. It should be noted that there are a few loud PC pundits who brag that they do not have antivirus software installed and never get infected, but for the rest of us the risks of damage are too great to compute unprotected. Cost of antivirus software can not be an issue, because there are some very good and free antivirus products available. What is probably the most popular and widely used free antivirus product available is Grisoft’s AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition (currently version 7.5.524), available for free download from the Grisoft website at free.grisoft.com, or from most major download sites like CNET’s download.com. Enormously popular, the site at download.com has recorded over 70 million downloads of the AVG free edition, making it the single most popular download from CNET. AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition is not just a popular free product, it is also widely respected in the technical community; download.com’s editors have awarded AVG its highest 5 start rating, and over 13 thousand users have rated it with an average 4 star (out of 5) rating. AVG has also been the recipient of several coveted industry awards, including “Software of the Year 2007” from PC Pro magazine, and the VB100% Award (February, 2008) stating “ … proved itself by detecting all In the Wild viruses, while generating no false positives, during both on-demand and on-access scanning in Virus Bulletin's comparative tests.” AVG 7.5 is free for personal, non-commercial use, but for those desiring a more capable and up-to-date version, you can purchase the new commercial version 8 from the AVG website. The free AVG antivirus will run on all Windows platforms from Windows 98 to Vista. Antivirus software is just one necessary component of a security system, other required components being anti-spyware, a firewall, and a rootkit detection utility; AVG can meet most of that need with its other free products, which include AVG Anti-Spyware Free Edition, and AVG Anti-Rootkit Free. Another very popular free antivirus product is Avast Home Edition (latest version 4.8.1169), available from http://www.avast.com or from download.com. Avast Home Edition is available at no charge if used in a non-commercial home environment. According to CNET’s download.com, over 20 million copies of Avast have been downloaded from that source alone, with over 50 million users claimed by Avast. CNET’s editors think well of Avast, awarding it a top rating of 5 stars. Over 6 thousand users have also rated it on download.com, giving it an average rating of 4.5 stars. CNET says that “Version 4.8.1169 is complete anti-malware protection for home PC.” Unlike many of its competitors, Avast (sometimes listed as “avast!”) offers more features including anti-spyware and other modes of protection. According to the Avast website, “It is designed to protect your valuable data and programs, as well as keep itself up-to-date. It also comes with the kind of built-in features that many vendors charge for additionally, or don't include at all such as anti-spyware, anti-rootkit and strong self-protection.” By adding one of the many firewall products available, including any one of the free ones, Avast Home Edition would provide a high level of protection for all eligible PC users. Avast has been recognized as a quality product by several third parties, including the VB100% Award (February, 2008), Checkmark certified for both antivirus and anti-spyware, and ICSA certified. The protection provided by Avast is among the broadest in the industry, and would be an excellent choice for any home user who wants an integrated antivirus, anti-spyware, and anti-rootkit utility. Another excellent, but less well known free (for home use only) antivirus product is Avira AntiVir Personal - Free Antivirus 8, available from http://www.free-av.com or from download.com. The new version 8 was recently released (April 15), and has recently been among the most popular downloads at download.com with over 6 million copies downloaded from that source. CNET editors have awarded Avira its highest 5 star rating, and over a thousand users have rated it with an average of 4 stars. Avira has proven its protection capabilities by being awarded the VirusBulletin VB100% Award, and is ICSA Labs certified. Several German computer publications and computer organizations have also acknowledged Avira’s protection with their top awards. PC Pro magazine gave the Avira free edition its “BEST VALUE” award, stating that “AntiVir is the most effective free antivirus package we've seen.” In addition to protecting the user from viruses, worms, and Trojans, Avira also detects and removes rootkits, and provides some protection from identity theft by incorporating anti-phishing protection. Avira AntiVir Personal - Free Antivirus 8 would also be a wise choice for anyone wanting free antivirus protection. Comodo AntiVirus is another very capable, but lesser known free antivirus product, available for download from antivirus.comodo.com. According to the website, there are over 3 million users of the Comodo desktop products, including its antivirus. Comodo AntiVirus is unusual in that it is “free for life” for both home and commercial users, and is also part of an entire suite of free security products from Comodo. The entire free suite is available as components from http://www.comodo.com, and includes a firewall (CNET 5 star rating), anti-malware (anti-spyware and anti-rootkit), anti-spam, and also has other components available. Comodo products are well regarded in the industry, and for those wanting an integrated suite of security products from a single source, Comodo will be a good choice. We all need antivirus, anti-spyware, a firewall, a rootkit detector and cleaner, and other security utilities. There are many fine free utilities available, along with many other commercial utilities. Be sure to have a decent quality antivirus product installed and frequently updated, and any of the products above will do a satisfactory job.

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