Do you need se­cu­rity soft­ware?

APC ’s editor dives into the de­bate about whether Win­dows’ built-in se­cu­rity is good enough to pro­tect you.

APC Australia - - Con­tents - DAN GAR­DINER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF dan.gar­diner@fu­

In the nerdier parts of the in­ter­net of late, there’s been a bit of an emerg­ing brouhaha about whether third-party Win­dows se­cu­rity soft­ware is ac­tu­ally worth hav­ing in­stalled. Ex-Fire­fox devel­oper Robert O’Cal­la­han’s blog post ( apc439-ocall) seems to have been the cat­a­lyst that kick­started the wide con­ver­sa­tion. O’Cal­la­han ex­plains that he’s reached this con­clu­sion af­ter years of hav­ing to deal with prob­lems caused by badly be­hav­ing se­cu­rity soft­ware, which (he says) in­ter­feres with other ap­pli­ca­tions like Fire­fox... and for which those other apps of­ten cop the blame.

O’Cal­la­han reck­ons that, in­stead of a third-party se­cu­rity suite, you should just stick with Mi­crosoft’s built-in se­cu­rity back-end (aka Se­cu­rity Es­sen­tials or Win­dows De­fender). But in­de­pen­dent test­ing by the likes of AV-Test (from which APC sources its se­cu­rity scan re­sults) seems to show that Mi­crosoft’s se­cu­rity apps aren’t as ef­fec­tive at pick­ing up mal­ware as ded­i­cated third-party pro­grams — par­tic­u­larly when it comes to ‘zero-day’ threats that re­quire heuris­tic scan­ning to iden­tify.

Now, there’s a lot of de­lib­er­ately spread fear, un­cer­tainty and doubt when it comes to dig­i­tal se­cu­rity, and we all know that we should be fairly wary when it comes to in­ter­act­ing with the on­line world — we need to prac­tise ‘de­fen­sive com­put­ing’, says O’Cal­la­han. That term cov­ers things like: Keep your pro­grams and OS up­dated with the lat­est ver­sions/ patches — in par­tic­u­lar, your web browser and email client; Don’t click on dodgy links or open/ down­load files that could be risky — in emails or on the web; and Don’t visit dan­ger­ous sites. In prac­tice, though, not ev­ery­one can be (or is in­ter­ested in be­ing) as tech savvy as your av­er­age APC reader. For many, it can be be­yond their ex­per­tise — so for them, there’s a good ar­gu­ment that run­ning a third-party se­cu­rity suite is the lesser of two evils. But I won’t be ditch­ing my se­cu­rity soft­ware just yet. I’ve specif­i­cally cho­sen a suite that has min­i­mal sys­tem im­pact... although that doesn’t guar­an­tee that it won’t in­ter­fere in some weird way.

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