Friday, November 17, 2006

Free Anti-Virus Tools

With my Symantec Anti-Virus for Macintosh about to expire and, having never had it catch anything even slightly contagious since it was installed, I decided to have a look around for an alternative and preferably free solution. I mean, why should anyone profit from a computer virus?

While we Mac OS X users might feel a bit lucky by not having been the target of many virus or trojan attacks that's no reason to get too complacent as some day it'll be our turn and besides, we can do our bit to keep infections down by scanning files we pass on to others.

Anyway, that's enough waffle from me so on to the free tools…

Clam AntiVirus Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows Compatible

First up is the open-source Clam AntiVirus, which is a GPL anti-virus toolkit for UNIX that has also been ported to Windows and for which some nice soul has written a Mac OS X GUI front end. Apple are even shipping it with their Mac OS X 10.4 Server. The Mac OS X version is ClamXav and the Windows port is ClamWin.

Most important with a virus checker is that its database is updated as soon as possible when new threats emerge and being an end-user, collaborative effort, Clam AntiVirus certainly seems to be regularly ahead of the commercial vendors in doing this. Scans and virus updates can be scheduled and it can scan the more common mailbox storage formats

What it lacks on UNIX and Windows is an on-access real-time scanner but the Mac OS X version has a helper application that has the ability to watch specified folders for newly added items and scan them as they arrive or scan newly connected volumes or disks.

Where it doesn't score so many points is in its ease of use, speed and looks but if you're looking for free protection it's well worth considering. I think I'll give it a workout on the Mac and see how it does.

AVG Free Advisor Linux CompatibleWindows Compatible

AVG Anti-Virus Free is an excellent, free anti-virus protection tool developed by GRISOFT for non-commercial home use and I've been using it very happily for some time now on my old Windows 98 system and on my kids Windows XP system. The latest version is also Windows Vista compatible.

It has regular database updates, realtime protection of files and e-mails and scheduled and manual testing. They also a offer a commercial version if you need more detailed control of settings and technical support but for most home users, the free version offers a pretty good level of protection and they do offer good discounts to education, government, charities and churches.

Avast! Home Edition Windows Compatible - another free and well-established anti-virus tool for home and non-commercial users. There is a commercial version available but if all you need is protection for home or school systems, then this looks well worth trying out.

It offers protection for Instant Messaging (chat) and P2P as well as the usual real-time, file-system and e-mail protection and it can scan network and web traffic as well. Another bonus is automatic virus definition updates, which is a feature often left out of free packages.

Comodo Antivirus Windows Compatible - This is a fully free product with no limitations on who can use it. It offers real-time protection, automatic updates, scheduled scans, e-mail scanning and it can scan network and removable drives too.

Comodo also offers free Firewall, Backup, Secure Password Management, Anti-Spam and Anti-Phishing tools.

Avira AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic Linux CompatibleWindows Compatible - Another, free for private use tool that protects against viruses, worms, Trojans and dialers. There's not a lot of information available on this tool but they also have a premium edition for personal systems and solutions for business use so maybe worth a look if the others don't satisfy your needs. They also offer a free unerase tool.

Panda Antivirus for Linux Linux Compatible - a free antivirus tool for Linux servers and desktops. It's designed to be managed from the command line or console.

Free Online Scanners

There are a number of free online virus and trojan scanners available and these can be pretty useful but bear in mind that most of them will be trying to sell you their commercial end-product in order to clean any found infections…

McAfee FreeScan Windows Compatible - based on the award-winning McAfee VirusScan engine, FreeScan searches for viruses, including the latest known "in the wild" viruses, and displays a detailed list of any infected files. Should viruses be found, it provides links to more information and what you can do to clean your system.

Trend Micro HouseCall Linux CompatibleApple CompatibleWindows Compatible - scans for viruses, worms, Trojans, and spyware infections. It requires the installation of a browser plug-in to do the job but it will repair and remove infections.

Panda ActiveScan Windows Compatible - scans, disinfects and eliminates over 110,000 viruses, worms and Trojans from all system devices, hard disks, compressed files and e-mail. It also detects spyware, dialers, hacking tools, jokes and security risks but won't automatically eliminate these for you.

Symantec Security Check Linux CompatibleApple CompatibleWindows Compatible - tests your exposure to a wide range of online threats and then no doubt tells you what you need to fix any found problems. It worked on my Mac and said I was safe, sigh!

eTrust Antivirus Web Scanner Windows Compatible - scans your system for virus infections and, going by the on-screen controls, allows you to cure or delete infected files.

F-Secure Online Scanner Windows Compatible - will scan your PC for infections and disinfect if required.

I've only listed the mainstream anti-virus tools here but there are quite a few more of these online scanning services. If you want to search for more just search for free online virus scan or something similar.

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