Online Virus Scanners Exposed

World News

In earlier
days of software development every case of getting a virus was a nightmare:
there was little an ordinary PC user could do to sort out the issue. Times have
changed, and today we have a choice of online virus scan services which offer
detection and (sometimes) removal of different kinds of malware – for free.

Nowadays
just about every manufacturer of PC security software offers a free online virus
scan on its website, but it’s not always clear what they are, how they perform
compared to stand-alone solutions, or why you might want to use them in
addition to or instead of downloadable products.

What are
online virus scans?

Most often
online virus scans are hosted on security companies’ websites and use ActiveX
technology (via Internet Explorer browser) to scan your computer, detecting any
files that show up in the company’s spyware or virus definitions. This is done
by comparing the user’s files against malware patterns in virus database.

Exact algorithms
may vary from vendor to vendor, as does coverage. BitDefender claims it detects
rootkits. Kaspersky Online Scanner boasts to have the highest detection rate
among all antivirus products, and also updates its definitions hourly; others do
it once a day. Some, such as Panda ActiveScan, require Internet Explorers,
while others, such as Trend Micro Housecall, also support Firefox and Java
platform (convenient for those with ActiveX disabled).

When should
you use online virus scans?

Online
scans are best used for sniffing out low-level threats that don’t mess up with
Internet connection. They usefully offer a reliable security testing solution
while conveniently skipping the installation steps of stand-alone programs, and
are usually compatible with security software already installed on your computer.
If you’re concerned about higher-level threats, you should consider
strengthening your PC security with a combined software solution like firewall
and antispyware (optionally with anti-spyware).

The
disadvantages of online virus scanners.

Most scans
are just malware detectors that cannot remove infected code unless you purchase
the product. That’s not necessarily a drawback if you’re open to new removal
software; the online scans test-drive the product’s efficacy. (Housecall and
BitDefender are pleasant exceptions, offering free removal services in addition
to a free scan.)

You’ll also
still want to reserve a good chunk of time to the scans – thorough examination
of storage devices can take hours.

Popular
scans.

Some of the
better-known online scans include:

Kaspersky
(doesn’t allow removal, however offers a choice of scan patterns – like system
memory, critical system areas, etc).

Trend Micro
HouseCall (supports Firefox in addition to IE, have two scanning engines
separate for ActiveX and Java technology, allows removal of infected filesFree Articles,
detects spyware in addition to viruses).

BitDefender
(free removal; features 2-mode progress scanning window).