Viruses and Spyware: Expected Costs

The previous post discussed the amount of money you ought to be willing to pay per year to avoid getting phished. By using statistics about the average cost of phishing and the probability of experiencing it, it was possible to come up with a meaningful figure. Given the right statistics, this type of analysis is possible for any type of risk.

What Should You Pay to Avoid Viruses and Spyware?

In Consumer Reports’ 2008 State of the Net summary, the odds of contracting a serious computer virus problems are given to be 1 in 7, the yearly costs $2.9 billion. The odds of a serious spyware problem are 1 in 14, with a yearly cost of $3.6 billion. (Note that these figures are for both businesses and consumers.)

From these statistics, it is possible to calculate the amount that the typical person ought to be willing to pay, yearly, in the form of insurance or a preventative product or service, to avoid the consequences of viruses and spyware.

If 1 in 7 computer users had major virus problems, it means that 26 million people suffered expenses of about $110 each. If 1 in 14 computer users had a major spyware problem, it means that about 13 million people took a hit of $275.

Using these numbers and a formula for expected costs (expected cost = average cost per incident multiplied by probability of incidence) we can conclude that the expected yearly loss per person from virus and spyware threats totals $35. Put another way, each of us should be willing to spend up to $35 per year on insurance, services, or products that would shield us from the costs of viruses and spyware.

The Value of Anti-Virus Software

Of course, my calculations could be wrong. But it’s interesting to note that McAfee and Symantec, two of the most popular anti-virus and anti-spyware providers, price their mainstay products at $40, $5 more than our calculation says is reasonable.

Is that extra $5 per year for peace of mind or is it down to overpricing? Or maybe the cost figures that Consumer Reports noted do not include the psychological cost of annoyance and time spent getting rid of viruses and spyware, which could bring the total cost per person higher than what was reported. I’m inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to the millions of consumers who indicate, by their willingness to pay, that a $40 anti-virus solution is worth it to them, but I could be off the mark.

Why are privacy and security important?

Every so often, it helps to remind ourselves why security and privacy are important. In late 2006, Consumer Reports published its third annual State of the Net, which I think is an excellent summary and forceful reminder of why, exactly, security and privacy should be high priorities for everyone.

(continue reading…)

Viruses have come of age

If your installation of Windows XP is lacking an antivirus program or firewall, it’ll take about 8 seconds for it to become rabid and foaming with worms, viruses, and spyware. At least, that’s what this BBC article suggests.

But seriously, remember when all you had to worry about was some dork impressing his friends with some virus named after a girl that kneed him in the balls last week? That was a more innocent time.

Today, viruses have come of age. And they’re not even called viruses anymore. The biggest problems today are spyware and adware. The trouble with viruses was that their sole object was to penetrate your computer, then destroy it. That didn’t make anybody rich, though, because good parasites don’t kill their hosts.

The most sinister and pervasive threats have morphed into commercially propelled vehicles for privacy extraction with a view to profit. These days, when I look at a friend’s computer that has slowed and showed signs of derangement from infection, I don’t find a lot of viruses. But I find boatloads of spyware and adware (and that’s a metric boatload, not one of those sissy imperial boatloads).

So be aware of the threat you face now. A new enemy requires new tactics–this means your anti-spyware and adware programs are more important than ever. I previously recommended Spybot and Adaware for the newly important jobs – read my review of both and find out how to get them (they’re free, of course).

Virus scan effectively

How do you use your virus scanner? Do you scan often? Just let the program sit idly and hope it proactively catches the bad stuff as it comes along?

Actually, it is important that you do more than either of the above to stay safe.

Treat your computer like a fortress

Imagine that your computer is a fortress, and your virus scanner is the guard at the gate. Everything that approaches the fortress must be strip searched before getting invited inside.

Similarly, before opening any file that arrives on your computer (for example, an email attachment or a downloaded movie or music file) you must first scan it. Saving it to your desktop, where it can sit harmlessly, is okay, but do not open it until you scan it.

Scanning a single file is really easy to do: Right click on the file and select “Scan with name of virus program“, and a scan of that one file will be swiftly carried out. It usually takes just a couple of seconds.

Using this method, you should find that you are able to drastically reduce the infections that successfully crash the gates of your fortress. In addition, removal is much easier when you find out that a file is a virus before opening it – you simply need to delete the file. In contrast, once you’ve allowed a virus onto your computer, it usually gets its hooks into obscure places, multiplies, and perhaps does some damage.

Read more about antivirus

Antivirus needs to go on a diet

Fat man staring at skinny man on bench

Antivirus scanners are often bloated and self-serving. Programs like McAfee and Norton Antivirus seem not to have the will or good sense to shed unnecessary code.

I have used both applications I mentioned above, each for more than a year. At one time I remember them being sleek and nimble, but with each update they got more features that I didn’t need. Scanning took longer, but didn’t get any better. At which point, I had to ask, “why do I own these products?”

Lighter is better

You are far more likely to use a program that is simple and fast, so you will be making yourself more secure by finding an antivirus program that fits this description.

Now that there are so many free and good alternatives to overweight applications, don’t hesitate to junk what you’ve used in the past. Try something new. If that sucks, try something else.

You don’t need to put up with programs that think they should dictate the use of your computer’s resources. Reclaim your memory and hard drive space. You will be glad your computer still has some zip the next time you’re working on five spreadsheets, watching a movie, listening to music, and surfing the net all at the same time.

Read more about antivirus

« Previous PageNext Page »