All the tips/hints/fixes/other information posted here are at your own risk. Some of the steps here could result in damage to your computer. For example, using a Windows registry editor like RegEdit could result in unintended serious changes that may be difficult or impossible to reverse. Backups are always encouraged.

06 August 2008

Antivirus Strategy Update: Recommended Download Manager

As I've written earlier, I believe real-time antivirus carries too high a performance cost for the protection it provides. Windows has a deserved reputation for security holes, but antivirus is not the most relevant part of a wise security setup for a PC. In fact, traditional antivirus has some troubling disadvantages:
  1. Slow read/write disk access up to 15-fold
  2. Definitions may not be available until after a virus has reached your computer
  3. Deleting or quarantining false positives can be hazardous
  4. Background scanning can interfere with software installation and updating, leading to malfunction that is difficult to correct
  5. Popular free software like AVG updates only daily, so even if proper definitions are available, your software might not have them
  6. Marketing preys on fears of the Internet that aren't proportional to the actual risk involved
  7. The same files may be scanned many times even though they hadn't changed at all since the last scan
  8. Hazardous files may still go undetected by scanner incompetence or bad virus definitions
I still use antivirus, but only for downloads and for periodic on-demand scans. To assist with this, I use a download manager that scans downloaded files. I've recently tried many options: Free Download Manager 2.5/2.6, Fresh Download 8.06, Download Accelerator Manager, Download Statusbar, BitComet, LeechGet 2007, Orbit Downloader, and FlashGet. Of these, my current favorite choice is Orbit Downloader, which needs the FlashGot extension for Firefox 3 to work properly with that browser. For scanning, I use ClamWin but with a compiled AutoHotkey script so that it scans downloaded files in a minimized window unobtrusively. You're welcome to download the small .EXE I use for this purpose for yourself (specify that .EXE as your virus scanner in the options of the download manager).

Beyond this, it's wise to use an active firewall such as the one the comes with Windows XP SP2 or Vista, preventative steps such as subscriptions against malware sites as is provided with SpywareBlaster and AdBlock Plus, and to keep unnecessary networking functions disabled.

UPDATE: Avast is free, has frequent updates, and can be set to only scan when files are being copied/modified. I now prefer this approach over Orbit Downloader + ClamWin.

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