The continuing appearance of Internet worms like Sobig and Trojan programs such as those that lead to worst case scenarios like bank account scams point to the need for better protection against these nasties and their relatives, viruses. So far, Microsoft’s efforts at securing its operating systems have fallen well short of the mark, so it has been left to third-party companies to come up with solutions.
Good antivirus software offers protection against these types of hostile programs, and will usually have a layered defence that works on different levels. Such is the case with McAfee VirusScan 8.0 and Norman Virus Control 5.7. These products combine several different methods of protection to maximise security.
Tactics such as signature detection, which scans data for the tracks of known viruses, together with automatic updates that download the latest signatures, are combined with heuristic detectors which look for signs of virus-like activity and can detect previously unknown attacks. Both products also have components that remain in operation continuously, scanning files as they are opened or downloaded to catch viruses before they have a chance to activate.
The printed manual for the boxed version of McAfee Virus-Scan may be confusing because it describes the installation and purchasing procedures for the downloaded version. The producers of the packaging need to pay a bit more attention to detail. The retail package reviewed here comes with a one-year subscription to online updates. Access to this service requires online registration, though unlike competitor Norton AntiVirus, the program itself doesn’t require activation. After you enter your name and e-mail address, it automatically downloads the latest virus signatures.
McAfee’s Virus Map shows the worldwide spread of infections as reported by its software. This gives no extra protection, but it adds some visual interest to software which is otherwise boring though necessary. VirusScan can create a rescue floppy disk for repairing an infected computer — however, if you’ve already installed an antivirus program you probably won’t need this.
Norman Virus Control offers multi-platform coverage, including Linux and OS/2. Although these systems may not be particularly vulnerable to viruses, they handle e-mail and are therefore a vital link in the spread of Trojans and Internet worms — so eliminating hostile programs at these gateways can protect many other systems farther down the line. The single user package comes with an authentication key that will only unlock one program.
Virus Control incorporates a ‘sandbox’ which executes downloaded programs in an isolated, simulated environment to check for virus-like activity. Its heuristic detection attempts to discover dormant viruses as well as active ones, and the program offers many features to help system administrators manage it over a network.
On our test system, McAfee completed a hard drive scan in 8min, while Norman took 10min — not a big difference. Both programs can be set to perform scans automatically at specified times, as well as on demand.
Norman Virus Control is essentially a single-user component of a much larger cross-network and cross-platform system, while McAfee VirusScan is a stand-alone product. Norman provides many useful functions for administrators that won’t be used by a single user, while McAfee keeps it simple.
In brief: McAfee VirusScan 8.0
A simple and effective single user product that could do with more emphasis on presentation and less on collecting user details.
Vendor: Network Associates
Phone: 1800 644 646
Norman Virus Control 5.7
A powerful stand-alone program with many options and features suitable for network administrators.
Distributor: Capital Security Solutions
Phone: (03) 9801 0800