Do I need more than one antivirus program?

Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how quickly and thoroughly malware or a computer virus can take over your computer and wreak havoc.  And those despicable people who create them are getting savvier and more inventive every day. You need strong protection to make sure your device isn’t attacked. There are many good antivirus programs out there, but you may be wondering if you can (and should) have more than one on your computer.

The answer is no. One antivirus program is good, but you may still have vulnerabilities in your system. You need more than one good guy on your side fighting to keep the bad guys at bay.

Why do I need more than one?

The malware landscape has changed tremendously in the past decade, and the old way of eliminating it is no longer enough. What has changed? Glad you asked.

  1. It’s easier than ever to become infected – It used to be that you could simply avoid picking up a virus by avoiding clicking on suspicious links or staying away from bad sites. This isn’t the case anymore. They have come up with new attacks and new weapons; malvertising for instance. In such an attack a legitimate site unknowingly gets malicious content from an infected site, and that content seeks ways to install itself on your computer. They are sometimes referred to as “drive-by downloads”. You can get infected by simply visiting the wrong site at the wrong time. Scary.
  2. Malware is everywhere – Software products such as Java and Flash, and many others, were created during a time when computer security wasn’t such a huge concern. Threats like exploits are proliferating online. Exploits is software, data, or commands that ‘exploit’ a weakness in a computer system or program to carry out some type of malicious intent. Some examples of exploits are denial of service attacks, Trojan horses, worms, or viruses. What is really frightening about exploit based software is that the average time between the initial infection and detection is almost a year.
  3. Response times to new threats from traditional antivirus programs are too slow – According to research from Panda Research, traditional antivirus programs only stop between 30 and 50 percent of new zero-hour malware when it first appears. Some take up to eight hours to reach the 90 percent level, with the majority needing a full 24 hours. Then it takes them seven days to get into the high 90% level. This is an eternity to go without adequate protection.

A couple examples – Let’s say someone in China or a hacker makes a never before seen, totally custom virus. It’s then sent to one system in an obscure place rather than blanketing the internet with it and allowing McAfee to stumble upon it quickly. Do you think that McAfee will find it and then send out a signature file for the rest of the world to protect itself? Unlikely.

It’s also known that many heavy hitters in Antivirus software will white list (i.e. ignore) some malware for law enforcement or other intelligence agencies (FYI this includes private companies). So you might have a keylogger, Remote Access Tool, or other malware on your machine that your antivirus program is allowing. Feel dirty yet?

Do I run them all at once to really disinfect my computer?

You don’t want to get a bunch of antivirus programs and then run them all at the same time. Antivirus programs don’t work well together, and running two at the same time may lead to one identifying the other as a virus. In some extreme cases it might even cause file corruption. Besides, running to apps at once will eat up your system resources.

It’s best to take a layered approach when it comes to antivirus protection. Think of it as locking your doors, and also having an alarm. Both systems work to keep you protected, but they work in different ways.

When you use the layered approach you spread out your antivirus resources in order to more effectively combat malware. Each program has its own strengths and does its own things.

First, you need a good traditional antivirus program. This will make an initial sweep of your computer and remove all known threats. After performing a traditional system scan and fixing any issues it finds, then use a good complementary software like Malwarebytes. Malwarebytes is designed to work with traditional antivirus programs. It is a lightweight (and free) product that works well to block threats that your antivirus program misses.

Then add a third layer like CCleaner. CCleaner will also take a complementary approach and work well with the other two programs, as long as you run them in sequence rather than all at once. When used together these programs will help keep your computer malware free and safe from attack. But do remember the basic rules of avoiding these issues in the first place. They are:

Don’t install anything you didn’t specifically request

Keep your antivirus software up to date

If you’re not using a piece of software anymore, uninstall it

It’s a crazy world out there, make sure you’re protected!


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