I often get emails from people asking if it’s safe to download executable programs from peer-to-peer filesharing networks. I always answer with an emphatic “NO!,” and the warning that pirated software and cracks — programs designed to generate product keys or serial numbers for popular software and games — are almost always bundled with some kind of malware. But I seldom come across more than anecdotal data that backs this up.
Recently, I heard from Alfred Huger, vice president of engineering at Immunet, an anti-virus company recently purchased by Sourcefire. Huger was reaching out to offer feedback on my 3 Rules for Online Safety post. He told me that the rules should have included this warning: Do not download pirated software and cracks from filesharing networks and cracks sites because they are a major source of malware infections.
A new study about the (in)efficacy of anti-virus software in detecting the latest malware threats is a much-needed reminder that staying safe online is more about using your head than finding the right mix or brand of security software.
Last week, security software testing firm NSS Labs released the results of its latest controversial test of how the major anti-virus products fared in detecting real-life malware from actual malicious Web sites: Most of the products took an average of more than 45 hours — nearly two days — to detect the latest threats.
Security experts have long maintained that running two different anti-virus products on the same Windows machine is asking for trouble, because the two programs will compete for resources, slow down or even crash the host PC.
But an upstart anti-virus company called Immunet Protect is hoping Windows users shrug off this conventional wisdom, and embrace the dual anti-virus approach. Indeed, the company’s free product works largely by sharing data about virus detections by other anti-virus products on the PCs of the Immunet user community.