Just about every time I publish an antivirus review I receive several emails. Some will sing the praises of the program I looked at. Some will have the complete opposite point of view. But, more than that, I often receive email asking whether antivirus programs are still effective today.
And the answer to that question is yes. For the most part.
I have to say that antivirus programs are not totally infallible. It would be fair to say that there are no such programs on the market that have a 100% detection rate or a 100% removal rate either. But that doesn’t mean you should go anywhere near the internet without one installed on your computer. Not if you value said computer and the data stored on it.
Whilst antivirus programs may not provide complete protection from malware they are effective at significantly mitigating the risk of picking up an unwanted infection. Sure, something may slip past your antivirus program from time to time but it will block the vast majority of threats that come before your computer and that has to be far better than not having an antivirus program at all doesn’t it?
Why aren’t antivirus programs 100% effective?
Perhaps the simplest answer to that question would be the fact that there are so many new threats appearing each and every day. And by that I mean thousands of new threats. Every time the bad guys get foiled by the security guys they will go back to the drawing board to create a new variant of their malware, or code something new completely. Once they release these new viruses they are known as zero days and they are not easily detected, at least not straight away. This is one of the reasons why you might want to choose an antivirus program that utilises some form of cloud technology which allows new threats to be discovered and countered much quicker than was previously possible with databases and standard virus definitions.
And that is a feature that is becoming increasingly important. Back in the day, which is probably before some of you were born, most data used to be stored and distributed via floppy disks. Therefore, most viruses were distributed in this manner too. As technology moved on, so have the malware authors and now most malware is distributed via the internet. That means that merely opening a web page can lead to your PC becoming infected.
The other change over the years is the type of person who is writing the malware. In the floppy disk days it was pretty much the stereotype – kid in the bedroom doing it for fun. Nowadays malware is big business and those who write it want a sizable return on their investment. That means that virus writers are far more professional in their approach and what they write is far less predictable in nature. These guys will also test their malware before releasing it into the wild. They will use the latest antivirus programs themselves to see if their code is detected and will make modifications if necessary.
Of course the security vendors never sleep and are always on the lookout for new viruses and other types of threat. Whenever anything new is detected they will update their programs to deal with the new threats. But that doesn’t always happen straight away. Whilst new zero day viruses are being countered there are more appearing. But having a good antivirus program installed on your computer will still protect you from the majority of threats and is an essential security precaution.
Of course your input doesn’t stop there. You need to carry on doing your bit to help yourself. That means ensuring you keep your antivirus program fully updated. And you need to scan your computer at regular intervals too.
So, to conclude, yes, antivirus programs are still effective today. Maybe not quite as effective as they were in the past and they won’t give you 100% protection. But installing an antivirus program will leave your computer a whole lot more secure than not having one at all.