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by JB Burke

Q: I have an anti-virus program installed, and I keep it up to date. But a friend told me that wasn't enough. I thought you could only have one anti-virus program, at a time?

A: Your friend is correct, that isn't enough. And you are correct – you can only have one anti-virus program running at a time. That's because if two are running, each will have a tendency to see the other as a possible threat, or virus. But there are other programs that you should have, and you should update and run them periodically, to make sure nothing has snuck past the anti-virus program. The reason these other programs can coexist with anti-virus is that they work fundamentally differently. The anti-virus program is resident in your system – that is, it starts when you boot, and it lurks in the shadows watching what is coming in (file downloads, email, web site connections, etc.) and it is ready to pounce when it detects something that its database says is suspicious.

This other class of programs we are talking about is called anti-malware. These programs don't run full time – they only run when you tell them to. And what they do, when they are run, is scan the files already on your disk and the programs currently in memory. They are looking for anything that may have got past the eagle eye of your anti-virus software. Since these are not running full time, they rely on you to periodically (weekly, monthly, etc.) to run them yourself. The reason we suggest running more than one of these programs is that no two will detect all the same threats.

Here are a couple of suggestions for anti-malware software. First, we recommend Malwarebytes. This is one of the most used and respected of his category of program. Another good one is Spybot S&D. Note – both of these are free. Malwarebytes has a paid edition for commercial users, and Spybot S&D asks for donations. Also note – you must update these every time you run them, and you must remember to run them. Otherwise they do you no good. Safe computing to you.

Published: Courier 3/18/12 - Page 5C