A few days ago, I wrote a brief post about my non-use of antivirus software on my own computers. A number of people have asked me privately if I am recommending such a stance to other individuals or to organizations. Let me be perfectly clear: absolutely not. For the vast majority of folks, the four important steps to protect your PC still hold:
- Run the Windows Firewall
- Keep Windows and your applications up-to-date
- Use current antivirus software
- Use current antispyware
These are good recommendations for organizations, as well.
But as I’ve talked about many times in the past, security decisions always involve tradeoffs. They also (should) involve an intimate understanding of what the users will be doing with their computers. Fact is, most individuals who are not full-time security professionals often make mistakes when trying to decide whether something is legitimate — witness the ongoing success of phishing and 419 scams. And organizations, unless they run highly locked-down environments, often can’t know everything their users are doing.
As I said in the previous post, anti-malware is not useless. It is a necessary element in your suite of defensive technologies to help keep the bad guys at bay. In my post I’m simply explaining a personal tradeoff I’ve made on my own machines at home–that by not running as admin (which I didn’t mention before), by using UAC, by relying on the firewall, and by training my family–I have made the decision not to use anti-malware.
So should you make the same tradeoff? Well, that depends. If you’re asking me about your own use of your own personal computers at home, I can’t answer that for you, you need to. Remember what I wrote: “I know what to click and what to skip, what to visit and what to avoid. I have control over what I choose to open, what I choose to load, and what I choose to run.” Do you have similar self-control? 🙂
If you’re the security administrator for an organization, you should not make this tradeoff. Again, remember what I wrote about my own self-control; I doubt that anyone could make such a statement for everyone in their organization! Antimalware definitely belongs on machines where users can store or transfer files:
- client computers
- email servers
- file servers
- SharePoint servers
The purpose of my earlier post was to spark a little discussion, to see what other opinions there might be. Some folks are doing the same thing I am, others always run anti-malware on every computer. Neither stance can be declared “right” or “wrong.” It’s simply a reflection that we all make tradeoffs, every day, when we decide how to manage and use our computers. And as I suspected, different folks make different tradeoffs, based on their own risk tolerance and experience. These are always good conversations to have.