What Can I Do To Protect My PC Without Anti-Virus Software?

virus tips intro   What Can I Do To Protect My PC Without Anti Virus Software?For plenty of users, getting and using anti-virus software can be a hassle for lots of different reasons. Not only can they be expensive (and then renewed every couple of years), but they can be slow, difficult to control, and a major eyesore if the product happens to display its name everywhere you look.

Whatever the reason may be, you might prefer to not have any antivirus software installed at all. In case you choose to go this route, here are some tips on keeping your computer virus-free without the protective software.

Safe Browsing Habits

The most important tip, no matter if you have anti-virus software or not, is to try to maintain safe browsing habits. It is impossible to get a virus without being on the Internet or reading data from some other source. This means to only visit websites directly instead of clicking on links (especially in emails), not downloading any files unless you’re 100% sure the source is safe, not surfing around for prolonged periods of time on sketchy websites, and so on.

If you’re not very good at determining what’s good or not, this might help. If it looks different from what you’re used to or get offered something that seems too good to be true, you’re probably a click away from getting a virus. These tips should be followed even if you do have anti-virus software as such products aren’t perfect, and some viruses, especially zero-day threats, can pass right through the anti-virus software without so much as a warning.

Updated Software

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The next step is to make sure that all your software, especially your browser, is up to date. Newer versions will fix security bugs that may be present in older versions, and updates could also bring support for new security technologies. That way, it will be much harder for a hacker or virus to exploit a security hole to compromise your system.

In Windows, go to Windows Update in your Start menu to check for essential updates.¬† With a lot of software, there is normally a “check for updates” option in one of the menus.¬† Just click through the menus until you find it.

Online Tools

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Another option you have is to use online tools to check if a file contains a virus. There are plenty of anti-virus websites that will check files for you. I recommend using this site as it automatically sends it to a much larger collection of sites and compiles the results of each test. This way, you’ll have a higher chance of finding a hidden threat or determining if you have a false positive.

Use Web Interface Security Features

Additionally, email providers such as Gmail and Yahoo scan any attachments in an email when you open it, so you should be able to trust the results of those scans. Note that the email providers only scan the attachments when you open the email in their web interface. Therefore, this feature won’t be of much help to you if you use an email client.

Security-Focused Browser Extensions

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Another great idea is to use browser extensions, where possible, that have a focus on security. A top extension for Firefox would be NoScript. This extension helps block any website scripts that could potentially cause problems on your system. While it takes a while to tell it what’s good and what’s bad, it will help block any scripts that might break into a security hole. You can find more Firefox security extensions here. For Chrome, you could try SaferChrome.

Use Linux

Last but not least, it might be helpful to run Linux instead of Windows if you don’t depend on certain software. While the above tips are definitely worth your time, you can dramatically reduce your risk of getting infected by a virus if you use Linux over Windows. This is because roughly 90% of viruses are for Windows, and 9.95% of the remainder are made for Mac OS X. In combination with the above tips, you can virtually eliminate the threat of viruses and enjoy a safe computing experiences without worries.

Conclusion

While I do recommend using some kind of anti-virus software if you’re using Windows (as there are plenty of decent free alternatives), these tips should definitely help to reduce your overall chances of getting infected. Just be smart with what you’re doing, and you should be doing just fine.

What tips can you add? Is anti-virus software even really necessary? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: AJC1

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36 Comments -

John Jiang

A helpful tip that I want to include is to scan removable devices since it’s also another source where malicious software could be executed and people have also suggested disabling the remote sharing files since it’s a bad idea to let other people gain access to your system.

Danny Stieben

Good tips, John!

E-LABZ

Use of online scanners or scanner extensions can also help.

Danny Stieben

I mentioned the use of an online scanner in my article. Did you possibly mean something else?

Anees Bakrain

Also another tip is to use live O.S CDs like live ubuntu,live puppy linux or any other distribution.and using sanboxie software to integrate it with your browser.

Danny Stieben

In a way that could help with security, though the use of live discs is primarily suggested for privacy reasons. Otherwise, it’d work in with my tip to use Linux.

Joe Carroll

Sounds like a lot of hassle to me. ¬†Back before the internet was so “media rich”, I would go without an antivirus, but the minute Napster hit the scene it was all over. ¬†Use Avast. ¬†It’s good and unobtrusive…otherwise, Mac or Linux. ¬†All the stuff proposed in this article is a bigger hassle (over time), than setting an automatic backup and reinstalling your OS, IMO.

Danny Stieben

True. Personally I still recommend an antivirus program, but people can follow these steps if they choose not to for whatever reasons.

Scutterman

For many years I’ve had to battle to persuade people that yes, macs can get viruses. Then they started getting popular (>1% of computer users) and it started to become slightly easier. Am I now going to have to do the same for linux?

Yes, they have a different architecture, and yes it is more difficult to crate a virus for linux, and yes if you do get a virus on linux it’s probably because you gave the wrong thing too many permissions.

However:
1) It’s not impossible to create a linux virus. There may be none in “the wild”, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a valid point.
2) A large proportion of viruses depend on social engineering. If linux ever got popular enough to attract the attention of virus coders, you can bet there would be plenty of people willing to blindly give the virus the permissions it needs, especially if it convinces them it’s trying to protect them in some ways.

Oh, and I’ve tried Linux twice so far, it’s never ended well. Probably my notebook hardware isn’t completely compatible, but either way it’ll be a long time before I attempt it again.

Danny Stieben

Those are all valid points being made, Scutterman. However, even with relative lack of popularity, Linux still has a lot of security features that would stop most potential virus threats anyways. Viruses would need executable rights, so documents wouldn’t be able to carry effective viruses. Therefore, they’d have to be installed, and package signing comes into play there.

Scutterman

Forgive me if I’m wrong, I don’t know a great deal about package signing, but doesn’t that just apply to maliciously modified software, or software that doesn’t come from the source it should?

I’m thinking of something similar to the “windows” antivirus, a very successful piece of malware that uses social engineering to get users to download, install, and run a program that doesn’t even have a real counterpart.

Persuasion is always a more powerful tool than brute force. Why try to break things when the user may just hand over the keys to their computer without question? Users are human, even superusers, and this kind of attack isn’t uncommon.

-Scut

Danny Stieben

Package signing helps prevent both malicious modifications as well as verifies the source, which is checked by the distribution.

I definitely agree to that. Computer savvy users tend to feel when they might be getting tricked, but those who just know to click on certain buttons to get to the internet most often don’t.

calgary dentist

Can I get a virus on my android phone?  The other day after I charged it it started downloading something and had a little cartoon guy on the phone Рwhat was that???  Was it a virus?  How do I protect my phone?  thanks

Jeff Fabish

Yes, your Android can become infected. To mitigate the threat of Android malware, only download apps from trusted sources and keep your Android up to date.¬†Additionally, you may download an anti-virus for your android and you should always password protect your phone. You shouldn’t use Public, unsecured WiFi for anything confidential (logging into websites, etc.).¬†

Post a question on the answers section and we will help you out!

Danny Stieben

Thanks for the input, Jeff!

Yes, Androids can get malware, but you can protect yourself but only installing from trusted sources like the Market. Antimalware software for your Android won’t do too much unless you install software from untrusted sources or a malicious application happens to slip into the Market (which I seriously doubt).

Using unsecured WiFi networks is more a privacy risk than a malware risk.

Sunil J

I work with malwares and I had written this down some time back. Maybe you will find this useful.
http://www.suniljoseph.net/2010/02/08/how-to-prevent-malware-infection-on-your-computer/

Jeff Fabish

That just about covered everything. Good article!

Sunil Joseph

Thanks Jeff

Ricki Ohana

Very good article. I have a Mac and I use Sophos, the free version is good too. I *always* stick to the rules, be it with my Mac or when I had a pc. Better to be safe than sorry.

Danny Stieben

Thanks Ricki! :)

Danny Stieben

Nice share, Sunil!

Sunil J

I had written a post on how to prevent malware infections on your windows computer based on what I learnt from my job. You can find it on my blog (not able to post the link as it will get into the moderation queue – search for malware on my blog). I personally don’t use an antivirus software, but that is something I would not recommend to most people, unless you know exactly how you could get infected and can remove the infection in case you do.

Lisa

I’m no longer using Windows, but when I did, I have to say that Microsoft’s Security Essentially was lightweight, unobtrusive, effective, and free.

Cheers.

Danny Stieben

I actually have it on my Windows desktop right now even though I’m a fan of Avast. No complaints so far.

Algorhythm511

Like Lisa said I would highly recommend Microsoft Security Essentials. ¬†Integrates very well with Windows. ¬†I haven’t had anything else on my computer for about a year.

If you have non power user friends make sure they’re on IE9. ¬†It is not my personal browser of choice but it is good for fending off socially engineered malware. ¬†There are also a few add on and features that you can turn on to make it more secure.

Also, make sure their computer auto updates. ¬†Lol, I have seen people who haven’t updated their computer for like 2 years, lol.

Danny Stieben

I must say that IE has indeed gotten some security back compared to old versions, but I’m still skeptical…

Oh gosh, I’ve seen that too. Completely breaks a geek’s heart.

Brian

This is an excellent post!

Danny Stieben

Thanks Brian! :)

ramesh balakrishnan

switch to UBUNTU

Satya Pal

you are doing a great service.the guides have been a boon to me .a hearty thank you.

Danny Stieben

Thank you Satya! :)

Aibek

good tips!

Robin Ashe

The problem with using Linux is it does nothing to protect you from Phishing.

Jeff Fabish

It’s not the kernels job to protect you from phishing, that’s the browser’s duty.¬†

Anonymous

I have stopped using antivirus software. I seems like I have not had antivirus problems since I have done this. I don’t open any emails if I don’t know who sent them. Could this be the reason? Or is it something else. I do use a program…Advanced System Care 5. Could this be the reason? Thank you so much for this information. I appreciate what I have read here today.

Rich

Use a drive-imaging software (Macrium Reflect is good for this) that creates a duplicate of your hard drive (OS, installed software and data). ¬†If anything goes wrong, you can re-image your drive in only about 15-20 minutes or so, without going through the hassle of wiping and re-installing everything. ¬†A good external drive to store images on only costs about the same as a good antivirus suite, and you don’t have to renew it.