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How important is an antivirus program?

I remember hearing that a Windows XP machine could be infected after being connected to the internet for 20 minutes, without the user even opening Internet Explorer.

But surely, with Windows 7, Microsoft have got their act together, security-wise, and closed the loopholes? Can I run my Windows machine like my Mac, i.e. without antivirus software?

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I'm using Mac OS X exclusively and don't use antivirus. But the clock is ticking, probably not long until the first major virus outbreak. Apple needs to get their act together security-wise, sometimes it's just embarrassing. –  Daniel Beck Oct 27 '10 at 21:07
    
@Daniel: “sometimes it's just embarrassing”. Example? –  Paul D. Waite Oct 27 '10 at 21:12
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Fixing 88 issues in a single patch, for example. Nobody can tell me all were recent. And they show just how fragile pretty much everything is. This is Gizmodo, but still. Or here. I could go on. While it's not actively exploited (read my answer and my earlier comment again), it's not because it's just not possible. –  Daniel Beck Oct 27 '10 at 21:24
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marked as duplicate by random Oct 27 '10 at 21:22

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There are still exploits. While Windows came a long way since 2002, there are still viruses, etc. in the wild. If you used antivirus software before, you would want to continue to do so. If you didn't before there's no reason to start now.

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You should never run any system without anti-virus. Every operating system has vulnerabilities (yes, including MacOS X and Linux). Even if they didn't the applications that run on them have vulnerabilities (that includes your web browser - just today an unpatched vulnerability in Firefox was announced).

Oh, and while there may not be the same volume of malware out there for Mac and Linux as there is for Windows it is out there. Sticking your head in the sand and pretending it doesn't exist doesn't make it so ;)

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Fair enough, but: show me someone who’s had a problem caused by malware running on Mac OS X, Linux, or Windows 7. –  Paul D. Waite Oct 27 '10 at 21:11
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You're right when you say no system is immune, but it's a tradeoff between risk of infection and negative impact of antivirus software (and there definitely is). Users have to determine for themselves whether it's worth it. Novice Windows users that install every software, click on every email and ICQ link, and never back up are told for good reason to use an antivirus program. For others, it might not be as clear. –  Daniel Beck Oct 27 '10 at 21:15
    
@Paul. Sure, pop over and I'll show you a few people running Windows 7 who've had malware. –  Cry Havok Oct 27 '10 at 21:42
    
@Cry Havok: I don't run any live-scanning AV software on my desktop, laptops or server. I have machine that wakes up to make scheduled network drive scans using NOD32, but it never finds anything. I also do the very occasional online scan. I can roll-back to backups if I ever did get anything though. The last malware I ever got was some dodgy IE toolbar around 2002 (never ran as admin), so with that contingency protection, I don't want to slow my computers down with AV software. –  paradroid Oct 27 '10 at 21:47
    
@Cry: Could you get them to blog about it instead? I’m a bit busy installing Windows updates over here. Any for Mac OS X or Linux? –  Paul D. Waite Oct 27 '10 at 21:50
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