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ANTI VIRUS SOFTWARE

 

STANDFIRST

Several thousand sneaky self-replicating programs are running around out there, doing their best to wreak havoc on your PC.  Rick Maybury checks out two more top-rated anti-virus packages, that promise to keep the nasties at bay

 

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Anti-virus software is a bit like life insurance. You donít want it but you know you need it; itís just another unwelcome expense, that youíll probably never need. So why bother? Youíve got away with it until now and youíre feeling lucky... With more than 15,000 known computer viruses in the Ďwildí, and an estimated 300 new ones being created every month, your luck might just be about to run out.

 

A lot of viruses do little more than put up juvenile messages on the monitor screen but thereís plenty more that can do real harm, from deleting, hiding or corrupting files, to wiping your PCís hard disc. Theyíre coming at you from all directions, on floppy discs and CD-ROMs, E-mail and the internet. Donít think that youíre immune, just because you avoid bootleg software and take a few basic precautions. The commonest virus so far, the WM/Concept, was unintentionally distributed on a CD-ROM, released by Microsoft!

 

A decent virus scanner could save your systemís bacon, but with more than a dozen packages on the market, where do you start? In ideal world anti-virus software should be easy to install on your PC, and once there remain more or less invisible, until an infection occurs. It should be able to discriminate between genuine viruses and legitimate software with virus-like characteristics, in other words, no scary false alarms.

 

Most programs include a library of several thousand Ďsignaturesí, unique pieces of code that help identify known viruses. New ones are being created all the time so anti-virus software should be regularly updated, and possess a certain amount of intuition, in order to detect as yet unknown strains, by analysing their behaviour. If an infection is found, the software should prevent it from causing any damage, but if the worst does happen, it must be able to put things right, and make sure it doesnít occur again, by disinfecting the machine.

 

Those are all fairly standard features, so what separates the various programs? The differences are actually quite subtle, some are better at detecting specific strains or types of virus than others, their susceptibility to false alarms varies, others have added functionality, that suits a particular type of system or application.

 

Thereís also quite a difference in the presentation of the user interface, and documentation. That was clearly evident when we looked at Quarterdeck PC-Cillin II and Cheyenne Antivirus, back in issue four of Computer Video. They had quite distinct personalities; Antivirus favoured advanced users and the terminally paranoid whilst PC-Cillin was easy to use and just got on with the job, with a minimum of fuss. This month weíre turning our attention to two of the best known virus-zappers, Dr Solomonís Anti Virus Toolkit and Norton Anti Virus Deluxe.

 

For a more detailed explanation of how the various types of viruses operate and an overview of detection strategies, refer back to issue 4. 

 

DR SOLOMONíS ANTI-VIRUS TOOLKIT

If you like to buy your software by weight then this is the one to go for. The box contains two fat manuals, together almost one and a half inches thick! Fortunately you only need to wade thought the half-inch operating manual, covering the various OS permutations. The other tome is a Virus Encyclopaedia, that explains in detail what viruses are, how they work, how theyíre detected, and lists the names and characteristics of several thousand of the most common ones. Fascinating bedtime reading for network managers...

 

Straight away you get the sense that this is a serious piece of software; this is just one of several Dr Solomon Toolkit packages, geared specifically for business users, networks, and -- in the case of our review sample -- for workstations. The CD-ROM covers DOS, Windows 3.1, 95, NT and OS2. This version lacks any major on-line/internet facilities so regular updates -- available for one year, free of charge -- are supplied on disc.

 

The first step is to run the ĎMagic Bulletí utility from floppy disc, to ensure a clean installation. When the CD software has loaded it carries out a full scan before re-booting. The scanner can be customised, to include or exclude various types of file, engage different levels of protection, change alert messages and enable password protection.

 

With luck thatís the last youíll see of it.  At switch on it checks the boot sector and memory. WinGuard starts at the same time as Windows and thereafter sits in the background, automatically checking files as theyíre opened. There are two on-demand scanners -- Find Virus and Verify -- that can be scheduled to check drives and discs for infection. If a virus is detected Virus Guard steps in and flashes a warning message on the screen; normally it automatically isolate and disinfect the file.

 

Dr Solomonís Toolkit has become the top selling anti-virus package for several very good reasons. It is good at catching viruses, it doesnít get in the way and it happily coexists with a diverse range of software. Itís flexible and easy to use, this package is well suited to PCs in the low to moderate risk category, other versions are available for more vulnerable net PCs.

 

DR SOLOMONíS ANTI-VIRUS TOOLKIT

How Much            £80

System Requirements.              

 

IBM PC or compatible, 386 or higher, 8Mb free hard disc space, DOS, Windows 3.1/95/NT and OS/2

Media                           CD ROM, 3.5-in floppies on request

Main Features            detects known and unknown boot sector, polymorphic, stealth and macro viruses, scans loading files, includes comprehensive virus encyclopaedia

Contact Dr Solomonís Software Ltd., telephone (01296) 318700, www.drsolomon.com

 

CV RATINGS DR SOLOMONíS ANTI-VIRUS TOOLKIT

Ease of use                   ***

Features                       ***

Performance                  *****

Value for money            ***

 

 

NORTON ANTIVIRUS DELUXE

Antivirus Deluxe is a more relaxed proposition, to begin with the instruction book is only a quarter of an inch thick... Straight away it carries out a virus scan then urges the user to create a set of three emergency discs, covering boot-up and scanning. The on-screen presentation is a lot simpler too, with neater looking and more informative dialogue boxes.

 

Once loaded thereís two levels of operation. It automatically checks system files and boot records at start-up, scans all files and programs, as they are opened, carries out a weekly scheduled scan, looks for unusual activity and checks all floppies. Manual options include scans of single files, folders or whole drives, the level of protection can be changed to match the risk profile of the machine and new virus signatures can be downloaded from the Symantec web site.

 

When a virus is detected a warning appears. In Windows 95 the Anti Virus Repair Wizard pops up, this is set by default for automatic disinfection. Manual elimination is also possible, this includes the option to repair the infected file, delete the virus, and inoculate the machine by storing data about the virus, or update an existing file, to prevent future infection. A scan can be initiated at any time from an icon on the Windows taskbar, this also includes a range of options, that controls how the program looks and operates.  

 

The program supports a high level of customisation, including specifying file extension exclusions, to prevent false alarms. The appearance of virus alerts and accompanying sound effects can also be changed, thereís full access to the activity log and scheduler and password protection can be enabled.  

 

Details of newly discovered viruses are available free to registered users. A utility called LiveUpdate connects to the Symantec web site, CompuServe, AOL or the companyís BBS. This can be scheduled to run automatically or the connection can be made manually.

 

AntiVirus Deluxe is slickly presented, the on-line feature simplify signature updates. Itís a well-respected general purpose scanner that gives a good feeling of security. It doesnít look intimidating, the price is fair and it stacks up well against PC-Cillin for ease of use.

 

NORTON ANTIVIRUS DELUXE

How Much            £53

System Requirements.              

 

IBM PC or compatible, 486 or higher, 10Mb free hard disc space, DOS/Windows 3.1/95/NT

Media                           CD ROM

Main Features            detects known and unknown boot sector, polymorphic, stealth and macro viruses, scans loading files and internet downloads, on-line updates, creates emergency discs, Crashguard (Win 95/NT only)

Contact            Symantec UK, telephone 0171-616 5600

http://www.symantec.com

 

CV RATINGS NORTON ANTIVIRUS DELUXE

Ease of use                   ****

Features                       ****

Performance                  ****

Value for money            ****

 

 

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R. Maybury 1998 1901

 


 

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