An Anti-malware Test – Common Sense Wins

image I’ve just finished an anti-malware test that lasted for just over a year. For this test, I took a test machine, running Windows XP Professional, which I did not shut down, or reboot, for 373 days.

For 373 days, the machine was continuously wired to the Internet and each day, was used for active surfing and general computer use, including email, downloading applications, and so on.

During the test period, the installed anti-malware applications were patched and updated, as was the operating system. Common sense; right?

However, I did not run a single anti-malware scan of any description, since not doing so, was part of the objective of the test.

The overall purpose of the test was to determine if common sense plays a role in protecting a computer user against viruses, adware, spyware, hackers, spam,  phishing, and other Internet frauds.

Let me be clear, this test is in no way scientific, but instead, is a rather simple test on the importance of common sense in using a computer attached to the Internet.

Installed Anti-malware applications:

ZoneAlarm Firewall (free edition)

Spyware Terminator (free edition)

Avira Antivirus (free edition)

ThreatFire (free edition)

SnoopFree Privacy Shield (freeware)

WinPatrol (free edition)

Firefox – not strictly an anti-malware application, but…..


During this very extensive test run, the machine showed no indication of a malware infection; at least by normal observation (since I didn’t run any scans), – no system slowdown; no unusual disk use; no unusual Internet activity; no security application warnings.

In addition to practicing common sense in terms of not visiting the class of web sites that are known to be dangerous – porn sites; salacious news site; Facebook; MySpace; and so on, I absolutely adhered to the following.

I did not:

Download files and software through file-sharing applications such as BitTorrent, eDonkey, KaZaA and other such programs.

Click links in instant messaging (IM) that had no context, or were composed of only general text.

Download executable software from web sites without ensuring that the site was reputable.

Open email, or email attachments, from unknown people.

Open email attachments without first scanning them for viruses.

Open email attachments that ended in a file extension of .exe, .vbs, or .lnk.

Visit any site not shown as safe by WOT.

After 373 days (the end of the test period), I then ran multiple scans using the onboard security applications. The end result – not a single incidence of infection, malware, or an unwanted application.

It’s clear, at least to me, that by using common sense and updating both applications and the operating system, not visiting the class of web sites known to be unsafe, not clicking haphazardly and opening the types of files that are clearly dangerous, and being aware of the hidden dangers on the Internet, the dividends were measurable.

This was a long boring test, but it proved to me, that using common sense reduces the substantial risks we all face while surfing the Internet, regardless of the antispyware, antivirus, and the other Internet security applications installed.

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Filed under Anti-Keyloggers, Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Browser add-ons, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Internet Safety, Software, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

24 responses to “An Anti-malware Test – Common Sense Wins

  1. Pingback: » An Anti-malware Test – Common Sense Wins « Bill Mullins' Weblog … RWPS

  2. Liam O' Moulain


    I can see how common sense wins every time.

    Thanks for the reminder.


    • Bill Mullins


      It’s hard to beat common sense. But, as the man said – common sense ain’t so common.


  3. TeXaCo

    Hey Bill,

    That was a loooong testing period but well worth it. Common sense is essential in keeping your computer clean. Unfortunately most people will not adhere to the rules you went by.

    If they did, the tech support sites would not have much to do.



    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Tex,

      As I said to Azziz, part of this test was to confirm that my Tech buddies who run without security apps, aren’t entirely nuts. It appears that they’re not.

      In a way, it proved that if you don’t go into the deep dark forest, late at night, you won’t be eaten by a bear. It’s just common sense.



  4. Adrian

    Wow. You really are a great man Bill. I wouldn’t have the patience to have done such a looooonnnnnnngg test without some kind of reward.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Adrian,

      Wasn’t too hard really. I just made sure I didn’t travel into the “underbelly” of the Internet.

      Good to hear from you.



  5. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Like I’ve always said, you have to use your head as well as the good tools. That’s an interesting experiment.


  6. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    One other thing I wanted to share with you, as I noticed on your test machine you had SnoopFree running. Something happened the other day that scared the pants off me.

    I had tried out Zemana but decided to stick with SnoopFree, I am loathe to change things when they are working. I decided to try out the test loggers from the Zemana site, and guess what. The keylogger test prompted no warning from Snoopfree, Threatfire, or my AV. SnoopFree was uninstalled quicksmart, and Zemana is now part of my defenses.

    It was a humbling experience, believe me.


    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Mal,

      That was a very smart approach! Good that you had Zemana ready to go.



  7. Azziz

    well malwares do not use common sense-ain’t no common sensed, but your approach is realistic and well guided

    • Bill Mullins

      Thanks Azziz.

      I know a few Techs who don’t use any security apps, and part of the test was designed to see if it’s practical to run without security. It seems that it’s possible.


  8. Bill,
    Great test its a lesson anyone can benefit from these days. Many users who are very savvy can get away without running security applications, other seem to manage to get into trouble every time they boot the machine. When common sense doesn’t seem to be an option,(because its not available in that person) I’ve been using Sandboxie or in extreme cases Microsof’ts Steady State. Their modo should be”When common sense isn’t available” run Steady State!
    Works every time.

    • Bill Mullins

      I always look forward to your comments. You never fail to include a real nugget of tech advice!

      I agree – Steady State is a real plus for those using a shared access system.

      Thanks for this Mark.



  9. Ranjan

    You really have much patience Bill…

    And ya your right that common sense can save you from all online threats, thats another thing if u get infected by a drive-by download from a site which you trusted.

    Evventhough, i think its not going to be that easy as for some people, curiosity wins over common sense.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Ranjan,

      “drive-by download from a site which you trusted” – yeah, you’re right. That’s the reason I use GeSWallon my principal home machine, since it stops an install from occurring unless the user allows it.

      We have an expression here, that says “Curiosity killed the cat”, and I’m sure you have an a like expression in your country. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be too curious, and the Internet is a perfect example.



  10. Pingback: Free ThreatFire – Advanced Security Against Malware « Bill Mullins' Weblog – Tech Thoughts

  11. Ahmed Helmi

    Great job Bill now its time for that test machine to Rest after all this long time lol good job :))

  12. Ramblinrick


    Common Sense wins everytime… Excellent, excellent, excellent demo (and dedication) to prove a point; AND, really this is a reliable test (or better) than any lab could perform.


    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Rick,

      One too many “excellents” in there. lol I very much appreciate the sentiment.

      The test definitely did show, as you say “Common Sense wins everytime”. Now, if we could only convince the rest of the world!


  13. Justin

    hey bill,

    i’ve just reformatted my computer, which security programs do u recommend?

    right now i have installed:

    anti-logger, KIS, threatfire, winpatrol,

    i’m considering uninstall KIS and use zonealarm with avira…

    KIS seem to be incompatible with SUPERantispyware, which is kinda annoying.

    also, which program would you recommend for spyware real-time detection?… like spywareterminator? i’ve neva really heard much about that….