Where have all the virii gone?


Are there no more viruses? Or are we so protected from them that we no longer notice them? I honestly cannot remember the last time I got in contact with a virus – whether by mail, in a word document or otherwise. It must have been two years or more. And when did the last virus do any kind of damage to me? This was in a time of DOS and Windows 3.1, I assume, at least 15 years now, when I was trading floppy disks with less-than-trustworthy sources (teachers, mostly).

And still, virus scanners are everywhere. I vividly remember the last time I had a virus scanner wreak havoc to my PC: Overnight, the heuristics had decided that all my .class files were suspect and had to be deleted. Hilarity ensued.

So really, do I still need this thing?

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7 thoughts on “Where have all the virii gone?

  1. That is really the question I ask myself every time I am starting my computer at work – all these stupid security alerts and updates drive me crazy but I am not allowed to disable these (property of the university has to be secure).
    Thanks a lot for all the good advice which is really helpful 🙂

  2. mh … I don’t use a virus scanner anymore. Used to have one at work (policy) … I remember it finding something occasionally, but it seems none of the bad code was ever executed.

    I guess my last (and only) incident is about 13 years ago … some boot sector virus on a floppy disc … well, that’s a guess, the PC was unbootable after accidentally leaving the floppy in while booting …

    Whether you still really need it: depends on what you want. If you want relative security You might want to consider switching to an OS that makes a less attractive target for those seeking to build their botnets. If you want more security … well, a virus scanner might help a bit. Separating potentially vulnerable services/applications from private data (different boxes, maybe VMs, but even those a vulnerable) might help a bit more.

  3. Ju: You need the Windows security updates. All of them. But the virus scanner? I guess that depends on what you use. not using Office, Outlook and Internet Explorer is a good first step to make yourself safe. Not using MSN is probably a good idea, too. I’m not saying nobody needs virus scanners: There are probably still viruses out there, there’s definitely still malware that installs dialers, porn, etc. on your PC – but depending on what software you use or don’t use, your chance of contracting them is a lot lower.

    And yes, using Linux exclusively would be the ultimate fix. But that’s just not an option when you’re a game developer.

  4. Lol – yeah sorry I wrote shit yesterday (happens when you are flying to a conference and then coming back the same day). Of course updates are needed but I would prefer to download and install them myself and not get this message in the middle of something important: your computer will reboot in 10 minutes 😉 After all it is not like in the student dorm in Heidelberg where you had viruses on the computer as soon as you plugged in the cable even before you could get any update. During that time I had about 4 different virus scanners and hoped that one would find the sucker 😉 And when I activated the firewall I couldn’t get a connection to the university server.

  5. Windows pwnz. Of course you can deactivate automatic updates. That is, if you are the admin. Had that more than once: leave PC busy with some longish downloads, go on a journey only to return 5 days later to discover that the PC has restarted after 1 day and waiting for someone to login for 4 days. Great. Windows pwnz.

    I love my debian box. No restart in 7 months, uptime ~2 months and suspend-to-disk still works after some 100 times (where my Windows XP box fails for some odd reason after ~10-20 times).

  6. I have never used a virus scanner on my own computer. I do run scans once in a while though, just in case. I have only had a virus on my computer once, in 1998. And I have been using computers since about 1990. Virus scanners are a good example of a cure that is much worse than the disease. The sad fact is that most computer users do need them, but not us. Just avoid Office, Outlook and Internet Explorer and be careful with what you download.

  7. Last year, I stopped using anti-virus software. Ressource usage, price, or false positives wern’t a factor, it was more the realisation that I didn’t need an anti-virus anymore, because today’s virus is stupidity-based. Today people get viruses because they opened an attachment in spam, downloaded something fishy, or clicked a link in MSN messenger that was sent by a virus. By simply not-being-stupid, I had stopped modern virus…es…ses (ok, I guess I’ll go with virii then ;)) However updates are important. Without updates, simply visiting a webpage could land you with a virus. (And don’t we all love buffer overruns?)

    However my question is: What happened to those cool virii of the early 90s? Those that you’d get because someone gave you the floppies of Commander Keen? I remember they were frustrating back then, but in retrospect they felt… cooler. These viruses actually infected your files one by one, and usually had some cool graphic animation to go with it. There was the catapillar one that had a yellow and green catapillar walking across your DOS screen, eating your characters and defecating them in odd colours. Those were the days! Now it’s all sly and profit-based.

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