Antivirus for the cheap

David writes with this question:
Two or three weeks ago I heard you mention on your show that I need about three different pieces of software to protect against viruses and spyware. I was driving and couldn't write those down. Where can I find what you recommend for protection? I couldn't find these posted on your WHO webpage. I believe these were freeware but I might be wrong. I currently am using Trend Micro. Are the ones you recommend better? 

Brian says:
Dan and I differ on this subject. He recommends that people use AVG Antivirus, Spybot Search and Destroy, and Ad-Aware. I don't really mind Spybot Search & Destroy, nor do I mind Ad-Aware, though I don't actively use either one because I prefer other alternatives. But I got really angry with AVG Antivirus when they started bombarding the Internet with traffic that wasn't really necessary. To the best of my knowledge, they've gotten their ducks in a row and aren't hogging bandwidth like they used to, but the experience really soured my opinion of them. Today, I generally recommend that people pony up a few dollars for commercial antivirus software from a source like Symantec or Kaspersky. But if you're too cheap to do that, I've found Avast to be a decent free alternative for home users.

Maybe it's unfair of me to hold a grudge against AVG like I do, but as the operator of a number of websites for which I have to pay overage charges if I get too much traffic (even if it's bogus traffic from antivirus programs, like what AVG was doing), I think it's fair to punish those who have transgressed.

No matter what antivirus software or anti-spyware tools you're using, though, the single most effective way to avoid trouble is to use a limited-access Windows profile. I could repeat this every ten minutes on the air, put a 300-foot banner on the side of 801 Grand, and hire a pilot to go skywriting with the message over Des Moines every day, and I still could not get the message across to enough people. Use a limited-access account, and you'll avoid -- by my estimate -- 90% to 95% of most malware risks on the Internet.

By the way, if you ever need a reminder about the free tools we talk about on the air, I keep a list of most of them at

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This page contains a single entry by Brian Gongol published on February 10, 2010 6:39 PM.

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