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It took long enough, and still the article that I am about to post ( Even though it is enlightening,) it's still scary at the same time.


Imagine!! that if the article is correct? That I wonder if most people online are Really THAT STUPID?








When AOL started offering free McAfee antivirus protection to its members this fall, it added one more question to the already confusing chore of shopping for antivirus software.


Is free good enough? Or should you pay for heftier software?


The answer, according to experts, is maybe.


"If you absolutely cannot or do not want to buy antivirus software, then please at least get a free one," said Mary Landesman, a security consultant who is featured as the guide to antivirus software on the Web site About.com. "I don't think they're the best choice, but I do think they're certainly a very good choice if you don't have one."


She's referring not just to AOL's new offering but to a number of surprisingly competitive programs that are available free online with no strings attached. There are also a growing number of Internet service providers that offer antivirus software as a premium service with a monthly charge.


Antivirus software is like a vaccine: Going without it doesn't just put you at risk. It allows infections to spread and puts everyone at risk. And there are plenty of people on the Internet without protection: 67 percent of respondents to an October survey by AOL and the National Cyber Security Alliance said they either had no antivirus protection or that their software had not been updated in the previous week.


Since new viruses come out all the time, antivirus software isn't much good after the update subscription has run out.


Antivirus through ISPs


The antivirus software provided free by AOL is from Santa Clara's McAfee Inc. EarthLink, one of the ISPs that charges a monthly fee for antivirus, offers Norton's antivirus software for an additional $3.95 a month. Add Norton's firewall and more security services, and it's $5.95 a month.


McAfee and Symantec say the protection offered through their ISP partners is the same as what you'd get if you bought their software outright.


Getting protection through your ISP is convenient, especially for computer users who don't want to bother with shopping for and installing the software. Since antivirus programs need to be continually updated to be effective and most packages come with only a one-year subscription of updates, getting it this way also saves the buyer from having to renew the subscription or replace the software 12 months later.


However, it won't save money for most people to switch ISPs just to get the antivirus service. EarthLink costs $21.95 a month (plus $3.95-$5.95 for Norton) and AOL is $23.90, more than twice as much as bargain services such as NetZero and Wal-Mart Connect.


Landesman pointed out that you'd be better off buying an antivirus product like Trend Micro's PC-cillin Internet Security 2004, which retails for $49.95 (or $4.16 a month) and is ranked higher than either McAfee or Norton by software reviewers at Cnet.


Landesman, a former product manager in the antivirus industry, said McAfee, which is a prominent antivirus brand, is good at detecting incoming viruses. However, she doesn't think it's the best. She doesn't like its interface, and she feels it should include better protection against some non- virus computer nuisances. She bases her opinion not just on her own experience but on Web sites that test antivirus programs, such as www.av-test.org.


Antivirus for free


As for the truly free products, some of them rank as well as or even better in tests than the software you pay for. For example, AV-Test.org, which is based in Germany, found that free products available online (see box) such as AVG, Avast and AntiVir detected 100 percent of the viruses out there today, just as McAfee, Norton and PC-cillin did.


Another study by AV-Test.org found that these three free programs responded to virus outbreaks faster than either Norton or McAfee.


Of course, free software isn't for everyone, or Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro would be out of business. "Free products usually have less functionality," said Andreas Marx, CEO of AV-Test.org.


And with a well known provider, the user gets the security that the company will probably be around next year with more updates, said Matthew Ham, a technical consultant for the British magazine Virus Bulletin.


Matt Moynihan, a Symantec executive in charge of consumer products, said consumers' confidence in his brand stops him from worrying about AOL's free offering or any other no-cost antivirus program.


"Free security is not something that gives people a lot of comfort," he said.


The difference between free software and the stuff you pay for often comes down to the tech support available, Ham said.


"If you have a certain amount of computer knowledge and you're not going to have problems in setting something up, then you're fine. You don't have to bother paying," he said. "I tend to use free stuff because it's free."


But Ham has a word of warning: "There are an increasing number of programs where you install it, and you're getting the antivirus with a lot of spyware."


Spyware, a program that quietly installs itself on your computer along with other software downloaded from the Internet, can silently collect information about your Web surfing habits or worse. When a computer suddenly starts performing sluggishly, spyware is often the culprit.


If you're considering using any antivirus program and want to know whether it will really protect your computer, you can look it up at www.av-test.org, or check if it has been certified by ICSA Labs (www.icsalabs.com), the security software version of the Underwriters Laboratories mark on an electrical appliance. Avast, AVG and AntiVir are all certified.


But why would anyone give away what the big companies are selling for $50 or more?


Alwil Software, the Czech company that makes Avast, gets its profit from its corporate customers. Because many consumers don't want to pay for its technology, it's "better to allow them to use the nearly full-featured program for free than to leave them unprotected," Vice President Eduard Kucera wrote in an e-mail.





Antivirus software

Get it with your ISP


-- AOL + McAfee $23.90 a month


-- EarthLink + Norton $25.90-$27.90 a month


Pay for it


Packages include firewalls


-- Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security $49.95


-- Symantec Norton Internet Security $69.95


-- McAfee Internet Security Suite $69.99


Get it free


-- Avast -- www.avast.com


-- AVG -- www.grisoft.com


-- AntiVir -- www.hbedv.com


Note: Prices are before rebates or discounts


E-mail Carrie Kirby at ckirby@sfchronicle.com.

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Yeap, I have Ad-Aware, and Spybot. What one does not catch, the other one does.


I also have on my reg machine Norton Anti-virus, and on this one that I am typing with, I have Avast. I also have zone alarm as my firewall.


Alot of my friends who get on broadband do not realize that they need a Firewall on their computer. They don't know that on broadband that there IP address is fixed. While on dialup "everytime you dialup, your ip address changes".


My nephew once undid my firewall settings, and poof! I got hit with 5 different viruses, and over a 1000 files downloaded unto my computer, in ten minutes.


It taught him a lesson, and it taught him why I keep all of my info on an external hard drive. :)

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I forgot to add this, so here it is,In the article they did not mention the Antivirus program "Kaspersky", which I have tried as well. Kaspersky for me showed me viruses that, norton, and mcafee, and Avast have not caught.


I haven't tried yet "though eventually I will", will be Trend Micro,AVG,AntiVir.Just to see what search results they gave me.


That's the nice thing about having an old computer up, and running, you can really play with it.

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