Do you need security software?
APC ’s editor dives into the debate about whether Windows’ built-in security is good enough to protect you.
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 ( tinyurl.com/ 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.