Last modified 08/11/11

Anti-malware Programs

This page has not been updated in a while. The basic ideas are still valid; some of the links may not work; and there is a excellent new article online that shows you how to tell if a file is malicious.

Mucho Importante: uninstall any old anti-malware program(s) that have similar functions before upgrading or replacing them with a new one. Don't say I didn't warn you. ;-)

Most security software reviews are superficial and misleading. The purpose of many is to sell the programs they are praising. Other reviews are based more on affinity or ease-of-use, not on how effective the programs are.
I rate some, but not all of the good anti-malware programs below, but it's too hard to keep up with all the changes any longer. If you want to know what I think of specific programs, just ask me.
When I run across good reviews of security software I add them to my Security Software notebook (select from thumbnails on the right), and you'll find links to more reviews at my page of Web resources.
The security software that I use is listed in the outline of my own security setup. It's based on a proactive strategy, which is bolder, and I think better than conventional thinking. :-) [Windows XP]
Security suites have become a reasonable alternative to separate, best-of-class security programs. They still don't deliver the superior protection that a full set of best-of-breed programs can provide though.
Find descriptions of each anti-malware category at the page on Malware Defense Tools.

Antivirus programs

Mucho Importante: Uninstall all old antivirus program(s), including previous versions of the new one, before you install an antivirus program. That includes security suites and firewalls, such as ZoneAlarm + Antivirus.

[Rank: 1=Best, 2=Excellent, 3=Very Good]

  1. VIPRE, by Sunbelt Software, is my personal antivirus choice. It's fast, accurate and easy on system resources. VIPRE combines antivirus and antispyware protection. [see below]
  2. Avira AntiVir: Stellar detection record, few false positives, fast, with low system impact. Avira AntiVir also combines antivirus and antispyware protection.
  3. Kaspersky Anti-Virus: First rate detection, and quick response time to new threats. Kaspersky combines antivirus and antispyware protection.
  4. Norton AntiVirus 2009: This is a completly designed program that uses much less computer resources than it's predecessors. AntiVirus 2009 combines antivirus and antispyware protection. [review]
  5. NOD32: Excellent detection record, fast updates, easy to install. Includes advanced heuristic scanning for unknown viruses. NOD32 configuration (settings) may be confusing for novice users.
  6. AVG Anti-Virus consistently ranks high in independent tests.
  7. F-Secure: an excellent program from a respected company that has strong, ongoing anti-malware research and development. (If you get any complaints when you install F-Secure, don't let it uninstall another program. Cancel the installation, uninstall the other program yourself, and then restart F-Secure's installation.)
  8. Avast!: Avast! is one of the few free programs that I still recommend. It has a good detection record, fast updates, and it's easy to install and operate -- free for home use, with free signature updates too. They have professional versions too, with increased capability.

Anti-spyware / anti-malware programs

Watch out for bogus anti-spyware programs. They're as close as the next urgent, sincere popup or ad. [more]

[Rank: 1=Best, 2=Excellent, 3=Very Good]

  1. I run Sunbelt Software's new VIPRE, which combines antivirus and antimalware scanning protection. It was designed from the ground up to minimize the drain on system resources. [review]
    You can't put two four cylinder engines together and try to make a V8, you actually have to design something from scratch. — Alex Eckelberry, Sunbelt CEO
    [review] [review]
  2. Norton AntiVirus 2009: This is a completly designed program that uses much less computer resources than it's predecessors. AntiVirus 2009 combines antivirus and antispyware protection. [review]
  3. Avira AntiVir: Stellar detection record, few false positives, fast, with low system impact. Avira AntiVir combines antivirus and antispyware protection.
  4. Kaspersky Anti-Virus: First rate detection, and quick response time to new threats. Kaspersky combines antivirus and antispyware protection.
  5. Spyware Doctor is a newer anti-malware program from a well respected supplier. Produces very few false positives.
  6. Microsoft's free Windows Defender is not as good as you'd expect.

The tutorials at bleepingcomputer.com are a good place to learn about installing and using anti-malware programs. They'll give you a good idea of what's involved.

Intrusion prevention software

The best way to keep your computer free of malware is to not let it in. ;-) Think of intrusion blocking as a bullet-proof vest. It's not "full-body" armor, but it is a very good extra defense layer. Intrusion prevention doesn't replace other anti-malware protection. It may not be able to remove infections that are already present either.
Note: Intrusion prevention programs are powerful, but not suitable for casual computer users. Their powerful protection is similar to running with a "Limited" Windows account or other reduced-rights methods. You need to know what you're doing to use them effectively.

[Rank: 1=Best, 2=Excellent, 3=Very Good]

  1. Online Armor Personal Firewall combines intrusion prevention software with firewall protection. Online armor allows you to run programs with reduced rights, and it's easy to temporarily run the same programs at full rights directly from Online Armor. Online Armor is a triple-threat player. :-)
  2. ProcessGuard protects your system and other anti-malware programs by blocking unwanted changes. In their own description, "ProcessGuard also stops applications from executing without the users consent, stops malicious worms and trojans from being executed silently in the background, as well as a variety of other attacks. ProcessGuard even stops most keyloggers and leaktests, and is recognized by many to be the most comprehensive anti-rootkit solution available."
  3. Prevx1 keeps an eagle eye on sensitive areas of your system. I gave it a rank of 2 in this category on the basis of my experience with previous versions of the program, and on the stature of the company.
  4. WinPatrol Plus has the advantage that it's much more user friendly than Process Guard or Prevx1. I have successfully used WinPatrol together with Process Guard.

Anti-Trojan programs

[Rank: 1=Best, 2=Excellent, 3=Very Good]

  1. TrojanHunter: Uses special techniques to detect and root out well-hidden Trojans. It's the one I use. [anti-trojan ratings]
  2. AVG Anti-Spy: (was Ewido Security Suite) A newcomer to Trojan defense, with impressive performance. There are free and commercial versions. Both worked well when I tried them, and they continue to get good reviews.

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