… consider yourself warned. I have encountered several machines recently on which people were either running without anti-virus protection or had allowed the anti-virus subscription to lapse, sometimes for long periods of time. I know it’s tempting to avoid that little expense, but the protection is critical.
You also need to let those scans run, or if you must pause/stop them at some point, make sure they run at a more convenient time. You cannot count on catching all attacks on their way in. You need to check everything regularly.
One of these unprotected machines required several hours of work, including manually locating and removing some rootkits before I could even run standard anti-virus programs. I managed to save all the data in all of these cases, but it wouldn’t have taken much more for those users to have lost everything.
A story today from MSNBC.com illustrates the threat, with malware grabbing your banking information, allowing these bandits to steal your money. This is just one of many attempted attacks.
I know security people begin to sound like broken records on these points, but the reason is that they encounter so many people who ignore all these warnings. I’m not primarily in security, but I encounter actual threats probably every week, not including those I know the protection software has caught.
In addition to standard anti-virus/adware/spyware/general malware protection, you need some sort of surfing security, such as is provided by McAfee SiteAdvisor or the AVG security toolbar. With that type of protection available free of charge, you don’t need to be extra-vulnerable.