Antivirus programs are rubbish

All of them.

Not using one, especially on a computer used by teenagers, would be tantamount to professional suicide for the person who has to maintain said computer. However, I have yet to find an antivirus product that doesn’t, at some point, create serious problems of its own on a domain network.

Two years ago we stopped using Symantec Antivirus Corporate on our network after it started corrupting network profiles for almost every user in the school. Worse, it did so in a very subtle way which took weeks to track down. We gave Symantec the boot about a month later. Symantec are also the company behind Norton Antivirus, which about 10 years ago was the best product going; these days I can’t discourage its use strongly enough. I see more broken Norton installs than every other AV product combined, and its uninstaller is so fragile that I cannot remember the last time it actually worked.

Sophos is popular in school networks in the UK, because it’s very cheap. It’s also very ineffective in my experience.

The last time I used McAfee Antivirus was at university. They had a full academic licence that permitted students to install it on their own computers. I uninstalled it in disgust after a lot of my files were automatically deleted in a ridiculous false positive incident a few years ago that saw me trying to explain the very concept of a false positive to McAfee support, who insisted that no such thing could exist. The problem was made worse by the fact that I had configured McAfee Antirivus to always ask before deleting any file it thought was infected, and it ignored that setting completely.

At the time, I started using AVG Free, and so when we dumped Symantec at work, we switched to AVG Network Edition. Now, before I go on, let me say that I still recommend AVG Free for home use, and the small business I look after that uses AVG Small Business Edition has no issues. However, AVG Network Edition has seriously let me down on three occasions in the last few months, and I have decided it may have to go. The sad thing is that version 7 had no problems at all, while version 8 has given me nothing but trouble.

The question is, what next? Ask an IT professional for an alternative and you will get a dozen answers, followed by a dozen replies by different people recounting tales of decrepitude when using each suggestion you’ve just been given.

I get that creating an effective antivirus product is complicated. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. I just wish that someone could not only get it right, but then manage not to destroy their own product six months later.

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About The Angry Technician

The Angry Technician is an experienced IT professional in the UK education sector. Normally found in various states of annoyance on his blog. All views are those of his imaginary pet dog, Howard.

17 responses to “Antivirus programs are rubbish”

  1. Sanguinor says :

    Have you ever tried avast? It is also free for the home and I’ve always found it much more effective and problem free than AVG.

    http://www.avast.com/

    • Connor Bunce says :

      It gave me nothing but ****ing trouble. It wouldn’t let me re-subscribe for the trial like it promised, and I couldn’t uninstall it. then I got Clamware, which uses an older version of Avast, and it knocked out my old laptop’s keyboard and mouse drives.

  2. AngryTechnician says :

    I tried it a few years ago and wasn’t taken with it, but I hear it has improved since then. I’d be interested in hearing how good the Management Server for it is, if you have any experience with that?

  3. Sanguinor says :

    Not personally no, but I know a lot of people who use it so I’ll ask about and see if I can find out anything.

  4. Anonymous2 says :

    I hate Symantec. Had nothing but problems with their Enterprise AV Solutions.

    Kaspersky is working for me, but they have plenty of issues too. You have to tweak things because the default install options will slow down your machines by a ridiculous amount. It’s working well for me now, but I wouldn’t really recommend it unless you have a lot time on your hands for testing.

    I have heard that ESET Nod32 is the best option at the moment. I’m going to trial that when my school’s Kaspersky subscription runs out.

  5. AngryTechnician says :

    Interesting – I’ve just started evaluating Kapersky on a few machines here on a 30-day trial. Haven’t noticed any slowdown yet but it’s early days I suppose. Are you using v5 or v6?

  6. Black Dog says :

    I am also a school technician, and my local authority uses Sophos. It is indeed a pile of shit. It’s fussy about what it will install on, it’s a resource hog, Enterprise manager is useless, updates are huge and take forever and often fail altogether, if you are daft enough to set it to use Heuristics, it will see everything this side of a .txt file as a threat, but- worst of all- it’s bloody useless at finding and removing crap.

    Nod32 and Kaspersky are what I use at home, no problems so far.

    I like “No, the internet isn’t broken”. I dunno how many times I’ve heard that one!

    My job is summed up by a post-it note stuck to a laptop, to inform me of the problem. It read: “not working properly”. There’s accuracy for you.

  7. Allan says :

    Hi, I’m a freelance techie among other things, and tend to promote AVG for those who dont want to pay, or BitDefender, which I find is the lesser of many evils for those who would like to spend money on something half decent.
    However, as you say, antivirus software is a bit of a joke, so promoting prevention is first priority.

    My first line of action for home users is, find out what they use there computer for, and encourage ubuntu Linux where applicable. Its perfect for people who just browse the web, chat, email, and write essays or letters; which is 90% of my customers; elderly and women (younger men dont tend to call for help with computers; they seem to think they know how already).

    My second line of action is training. half hour one to one training with any one of any age who uses a web browser and knows what a download is, and teach them to be sensible, vigilant, and observant about there actions. It’s normally a users fault for letting a virus or spyware install or run on their computer. Many of the cases I come accross is down to boyfriends/partners/sons, being tempted by less than respectable content, to put it mildly (lmao!!)

    Prevension by promoting sensible use and putting the fear of viruses into people, is far better than waiting for something to go wrong and having people trust antivurus programs to keep them safe.

    I rarely get calls from people I’ve already visited, asking for virus related help.

  8. AVOpinion says :

    Actually, I must disagree. I think Sophos AV is a very fast and effective package against malware and virus threats. I think you should try it again now… you might be suprised!

  9. Black Dog says :

    Yes, that’s true. It tends to miss a lot of viruses/malware, yet deletes just about everything if you leave heuristics on. And takes forever to update, even with enterprise console. Sophos seem to spend more on their damned website graphics than on making their product effective. Style over substance, I hate Sophos with a vengeance.

  10. genericstudent says :

    Since so many others are offering their software choices, here’s my anecdotal saviour:
    Spybot Search and Destroy..?
    I believe they offer a network-deployable version, but I’ve only used (and been rescued by) their free personal use version.

    Just a thought

    • AngryTechnician says :

      Spybot is pretty good, but it’s not a full antivirus program. It focuses on spyware and doesn’t have an on-access scanner. It’s a great supplement to a proper antivirus program, but not a replacement.

      • Angel says :

        antivirus programs are s*** and will slow your system down so there is no point using them because they do not even work i am a programer and i can make a easy bat or exe file that is a virus and every antivirus program i use can not stop it and for a program i can make in under 10mins it should be easy but its not just use your task manager and if you can not delete something just use adwcleaner

  11. just me says :

    Great post, yup they’re all crap. AVG seems to hit a new level of bugginess with each new release, & norton/symantec now seem to want a processor core and a gig of ram for each of their thousand processes, most of which seem to be aimed at stopping your PC from working.

    I’m veering towards MSE these days for home users/small business. It’s just as crap as the rest at stopping viruses, but it doesn’t seem to cause (m)any problems.

    I’ll settle for that.

  12. yo says :

    Sandboxie. That is all.

  13. Just someone says :

    I feel much the same disappointment about Norton Antivirus.

    Once for a while, I would review this once beloved one and see if it has returned to its good state. Totally wasted my time – trial period evolved from 6 months to 3 months to 15 days, complicated activation procedure keep reminding you that meant you better uninstall it if you are not going to feed them money.

    Fine, if it is a good software, I would like to buy it. But why a software I bought has to be renewed to a new version every year? I could pay every year for definition update, I could pay for renew license agreement. But not that I have owned the software after I have paid it? Why a manufacturer would make a short life-span product for what he is selling?

    I refuse any program that have unsolicited connection to Internet. To me, that looks like more a spyware then upgrade or customer service for me. Sadly, nowadays software like to create false need to connect internet to their server so that they can be check whether they have got paid.