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10 Antivirus Protection Myths Examined and Debunked

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There are so many misconceptions, myths, and just plain old lies about malware, viruses, and computer antivirus software. It’s often hard for anybody to know what’s true and what’s pure nonsense. Here we debunk some of the most commonly held fallacies people have about computer security software programs. These are the top 10 antivirus protection myths people still have.

1. Antivirus Companies Create Viruses to Sell More Software

They may exaggerate some threats, particularly when predicting headline-grabbing new dangers, but it’s unlikely that antivirus companies create viruses in order to stay in business. The fact is that criminals are perfectly capable of creating enough problems to keep security software firms in business. Our own antivirus comparison test results suggest some security companies are struggling to keep up with existing threats, so there’s no need to invent more.

2. Firewalls Protect You From Viruses

It’s surprising how many users still believe this, but your firewall will not protect you from viruses, spyware, or trojan attacks — in fact, the only type of malware that it will definitely be preventing is a worm, because it travels over the network. And sure, your firewall will alert you if a malware program is sending data back, but that is a false sense of security. Once your computer is infected, a cleverly designed virus can simply disable the firewall.

Don’t get the wrong idea, we don’t recommend to disable your firewall — in fact, you should keep it enabled at all times, especially when using a public Wi-Fi, like coffee shops, hotels, libraries, etc. If you can’t choose the right firewall for you, we recommend installing ZoneAlarm Free Firewall besides the standard built-in Windows firewall.

3. Antivirus Protection Makes Your PC Horribly Slow

While it’s true that all antivirus software for PC has some impact on a system’s performance, it’s not as severe as you might imagine. In our tests, the best antivirus programs made little impact on the speed of a PC. Common concerns, such as shutdown and boot times, were hardly affected, while applications such as 3D action games ran with the same frame rates with and without computer antivirus software installed.

There’s no doubt that the more programs you install on your PC, and the more files you create, the slower your system will become. But it’s not true that all antivirus software programs slow your PC more than other types of software.

4. Viruses Can Damage Your Computer’s Hardware

Sure, there are viruses that can infect your firmware or BIOS virus — like the CIH Virus — but the hardware itself is unaffected. Stories of viruses that cause your computer to go crazy and blow up are illogical and a little ridiculous. If your PC ends up infected by one of these nastier BIOS—level viruses, you’ll probably have to take your PC to somebody that can wipe and replace the BIOS manually, but viruses aren’t going to destroy your hardware.

5. The Same Antivirus is Always the Best

Internet threats evolve over time. The bad guys compete with each other and attempt to win battles with security firms by trying to evade detection. At the same time, antivirus companies try to respond to the latest dangers and update their top rated antivirus products accordingly. This means that, while an anti-malware test can indicate which products performed best during the test period, it is dangerous to make any sweeping predictions for the future. For example, a top rated antivirus may perform very well one month, but fail horribly six months later.

However, some companies do have good track records. We conduct testing all year, every year, so we can look back over old reports to get a sense of a company’s general success rate against the current threats of the day.

6. My PC Shows a Lot of Errors, So It Must Be Infected

Files often get corrupted without the involvement of any viruses — it can be a bug in the software, a bad hard drive sector, flawed memory, or ironically, a conflict with your computer antivirus software. So the next time your computer is throwing an error about being unable to open a file, do a quick antivirus scan to see whether your PC is infected or not.

7. Windows PCs Are Less Secure Than MACs

Criminals target the most popular devices because it’s the best way to guarantee results. If everyone switched to using OS X or Linux on their computers then the attackers would shift their interest to these operating systems. There are plenty of security holes in non-Windows systems but criminals generally focus on finding and abusing flaws in Windows at the moment.

According to CVEDetails – a company that tracks security flaws in software – during the last year, Microsoft products contained 3,227 new vulnerabilities, and there were 178 new exploit codes for hackers to use. Apple’s software, on the other hand, contained 2,139 vulnerabilities and 45 new exploits. From a technical point of view it would not take much for attackers to switch from attacking Microsoft software to Apple software.

8. Free Antivirus Protection Is As Good As The One You Pay

Many users stick to the free antivirus protection, but we believe it’s worth paying for a top rated antivirus protection because even the best free antivirus software leaves out security features we consider crucial.

The big differences between paid-for and free antivirus protection are: features and tech support. Free antivirus software programs don’t come with features such as protection against ransomware attacks or features to manage security on mobile devices, to protect children online, monitor a computer’s firewall, continuous updates and other features. But during our antivirus comparison tests, we saw some excellent free antivirus protection programs, even though extra features were excluded.

9. I Can Always Trust My Antivirus Software

More often than you’d think, your antivirus software for PC is just plain wrong, and this is especially true when you’re performing a heuristic scanning to check if a file might be infected with a virus. This is known as false positive. It is when your computer antivirus software detects a file as a virus, trojan, or another type of malware, even when it really isn’t a malware, and then tries to quarantine or delete that file.

To check for sure whether your download contains a malware, the first thing you should do is upload the file to VirusTotal — a free service that analyzes suspicious files for all kinds of malware. Your file will be instantly scanned against 50+ different antivirus and antimalware engines at the same time, after which you’ll get the results.

Another way to know for sure if your download really has a virus is to ask the developer. You’d be surprised to find out how easy it’s to contact some developers. If they’re trustworthy, they care a great deal about what antivirus protection programs are saying about their software and will help you for sure. Use your common sense and Google search to investigate further.

10. I Don’t Know How, But This Damn Virus Started Browsing for Porn

I always get a good laugh when somebody brings their computer over to me and tells me that it has viruses — and then says that those damn viruses opened up all these tacky porn websites, and they don’t have the slightest idea how it happened. I guess you’ve probably heard the same story.

Sure, you might unintentionally see a porn ad pop-up if you don’t have an ad blocker installed on your web browser and you’re already browsing tacky websites, but viruses don’t browse through porn websites, people do. It’s usually at this point that I mention that just like the people on the monitor, anything downloaded from a porn website is much more likely to contain a virus.


What kind of major myths of antivirus protection have you heard? Share your funny moments in the comment section below.

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