I’Ve had it with “Avast!”. It annoyed me in so many ways. It kept detecting false positives als generic malware. So I put it on the exclusion list. Then it got detected in a different location when making a backup. So I set the heuristics down a notch. Still happening. So another notch down. Heuristics now on minimum. Still happening. Then, amazingly, there was a Steam update for Garry’s Mod and it detected malware in one of its DLLs, messing up my update. Then I turned heuristics completely off. It still detected one of my assembler demos as having malware. I submitted the file to Avast! for analysis but I guess they don’t move a finger unless a file is reported by many users.
And when I update the program, there’s a chance that it will just delete exclusions or reset various settings to standard, preferrably the auto-update I turned off.
Virus scanners are all about business fear. They don’t want to give you certain freedoms because it could mean that their product might look less effective, and that would harm their reputation.
So recently I finally had enough and uninstalled Avast! and looked for alternatives.
First I tried Avira. After installing and rebooting, I couldn’t even figure out how to open the main window. The task symbol, no matter what I did, wouldn’t give me access to something resembling a main window with program settings and such. That’s stuff I don’t like at all.
So I uninstalled that and tried one of the other ones I put my eyes on.
Next I tried Ad-Aware. That’s when the shit really hit the fan. After reboot, my system froze on the login screen with no user shown and a “Please Wait” with non-moving animation. Sometimes it would show a mouse cursor instead that was frozen. Sometimes I’d not even get that far, just a black screen.
And as various tests showed, it really was the virus scanner. Because after I had managed to research on my secondary PC about how many menu items there are in Win7’s F8 menu, I could blindly (since for some reason there was no picture) navigate to “Restore Last Known Good” and Windows started with no Ad-Aware antivirus driver installed.
So, amazingly, I gave it the benefit of the doubt, in disbelief that a virus scanner driver could mess a system up like this, suspecting that maybe I didn’t reboot often enough between those other virus scanner tries. This time I did. Very clean install. And, because Ad-Aware (as Avira, too) is so annoying that they only give you an online installer, not the complete package, I had to re-download those 150 MB I uninstalled minutes earlier – from their SLOW download server.
But, next system start froze again, just like first time.
So that was Ad-Aware. I was close to giving up, but I decided to try one more option that I had sorted out in my selection process because the interface looked too Win8ey for my taste: AVG.
So I installed AVG, found a nice amount of options to give me control over things. I couldn’t figure out how to remove their context menu item for securely deleting files though, which bothered me, and that feature could also not be excluded from the installation. So that pissed me off a little again, but that’s nothing compared to the massive flood of false positives I got. I scanned my assembler demos folder, where Avast! used to complain about one file there, and I got 28 alerts, many of them apparently based on heuristics. So I turned heuristics off and now I got 28 alarms for non-heuristic, specifically named malware. It’s even crazier: The one Avast! used to complain about was not among AVG’s alerts.
So that was that. Away with AVG.
Then I wanted to investigate and find out whether my intuition was right (I kinda knew it was), so I used a website that scans a file using many scan engines (https://www.metascan-online.com). And the picture I got there was pretty much what I expected: There was one half of the usual freely available scanners that detected malware in pretty much all the files I had gotten alerts on, and crazily all kinds of malware. Three different scan engines could detect three different, namely specified types of malware. Insanity!
And then there was the other half, the one with scan engines associated with virus scanners you have to pay money for, (names you would find in the business sector, such as ESET, Kaspersky, BitDefender, McAfee, TrendMicro etc.), and none of them detected anything in my allegedly highly infected assembler demos.
Avast!, which annoyed the hell out of me, seems to be one of the best free virus scanners, which is really sad. I have to draw my conclusions from the experience though. Virus scanners massively lose their usefulness when you cannot trust them to do their job properly. After all, it’s all about computer security, a sensitive area where one screwup can cause that which it is supposed to prevent, but just using oversensitivity to avoid that case can be very bad, too, and it shows that in a way those products don’t actually know what they’re doing.
One of the best virus and malware protections is an IT guy’s mind (optionally combined with a free online file analysis as mentioned above), but if you don’t want to invest in that expertise, you might have to pay a little to compensate for that.
P.S.: On top of all this, I recently learned about an incident where someone I know was using the paid(!) ‘total solution’ for PC protection from one of those who also offer a free version of the software, and it still happened that malware totally ruined the system.