Bitdefender 60-second virus scan: a review

I mentioned Bitdefender 60-second virus scan the other day, but didn’t give it a proper review. It’s time I remedy that.

It’s a small 160K stub that downloads a few more megabytes worth of stuff after you run it. Unlike most other free antivirus apps, this one is intended to be secondary–a marketing tool to show you what your primary antivirus isn’t catching that Bitdefender would, I suppose. But I think it’s useful as a second line of defense, and recommend using it as such.

Let me begin with some semantics. Technically speaking, viruses and malware aren’t the same thing. I use the term malware in a broad sense, to mean malicious, undesirable software of any form, whether that means a virus, a Trojan Horse, spyware, a worm, or a combination. So when I say malware, I mean more than just viruses, and more than just spyware.

So let’s get back on topic. No antivirus program catches everything, and the actual amount of what they catch is decreasing all the time. So one line of thought is to let a second one try to catch some of what the first one misses. If each engine catches 70% of malware, then the combination of the two will catch somewhere between 70% and 91% of malware (70 percent, plus 70 percent of the difference).

There will almost always be overlap in what the two engines don’t catch, just by nature. If one engine learns to detect a new piece of malware sooner than the other, then you just reaped the benefit of having two lines of defense.

There was a time when I ran two engines on all of my machines and recommended it. I’m less sure now. Application whitelisting does a lot more to protect you, as does EMET.

Then again, installating Bitdefender’s product couldn’t be simpler. You run the program, wait, read the EULA, and click “Agree and Install.” Then you wait another minute or two for it to install, then click “Finish.” Then a little orb appears onscreen, with a green button labeled “Start Scan.” Click it, and it spends 60 seconds analyzing your system. Then it spends some more time uploading data to Bitdefender’s servers for analysis.

I found this upload was a bit problematic over wireless connections at times–the program would complain that the network connection was interrupted–but it works flawlessly on wired networks.

Once it finishes, it alerts you to any problems it found. Click the report, and it will report on what it found, as well as other defenses present on your system, like a firewall, Windows Update, and User Account Control.

And the nice thing is, there’s nothing else to configure. Just install it, and it automatically scans your system every day and alerts you if it finds anything.

Once it’s installed, it consumes about 8.5 megs of RAM, and a miniscule amount of CPU time even on a low-end, 2-core system. If your computer was built in 2004 or later, I don’t think you’ll notice it. On a modern system, I’m even more sure you won’t notice it.

That is what I want from antivirus. Something that takes a handful of clicks to install, then stays out of the way, scanning the system once a day, and reporting back if it finds something.

Avast in secondary scanner mode was nice, but you had to schedule the daily scans, and it wasn’t intuitive, and it nags you a lot. Bitdefender makes it so easy a kindergartener could do it, and it doesn’t nag.

But if you’re the type who would be willing to run two antivirus engines, I urge you to look into application whitelisting and EMET.


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