Kay lives here

working with the web

Poll results: do web professionals use anti-virus?

Last week I asked the burning question: do web professionals use anti-virus programs on their own machines? I don’t – I find no need to. I was curious as to how many of my peers shared my view.

And the results?

  • 66 people voted.
  • 41% – the majority plurality – said that they believed anti-virus was necessary.
  • 30% (20) of those people agreed with me that anti-virus was unnecessary for people who knew what they were doing.
  • 14% said that they have anti-virus, but only because they shared their machine with others.
  • Another 14% ran their anti-virus only on demand.
  • Only one respondent thought the poll was stupid and pointless – a surprisingly low number!

The percentages who either shared their machines or used anti-virus only on demand didn’t surprise me – I’ve been in both situations in the past. Of those who insisted that anti-virus was necessary, one was quite forceful about it in the comments, reminding me that I hadn’t put in a disclaimer to say that I do always surf behind a firewall router. Another commenter was strongly in the no-AV-for-me camp. And apart from Jamwerx Dave yammering on about his beloved Mac – despite my dire warning that I wasn’t interested – all the other commenters were fairly middle-of-the-road in their attitudes.

One interesting statistic was that for the first few hours – in fact, until about the first 40 responses – the “I don’t use anti-virus” camp was in the lead. The post was put live on a Saturday morning in Australia, so maybe this means that those fanatical individuals who have their feed reader open permanently, all hours of the day and night including weekends, are more likely to be confident enough in their own computer skills to not rely on anti-virus. Or maybe it’s completely random and meaningless.

So was I surprised by the results? Not really! Have I been convinced that anti-virus is necessary for me? Absolutely not! Was it an interesting exercise? Actually, yes, despite the predictable outcome, it was interesting to see how strongly people feel about the issue. It will be interesting to ask the same question in another 12 months or two years, when Vista has been out for a while, to see if that changes anyone’s opinions. Hmm, so many more potential questions. How many web developers disable UAC? What about Windows Defender? Bah, I’ll leave those for when I’m bored :)


  1. I could say go use a Mac.. but I won’t :)

  2. @Gary Barber:

    Because that’d be a largely ignorant statement? It’s pretty well known (at least, I think it is) that OSX is pretty vulnerable in many ways – it’s just gotten by so far on being such a small market that no one really cares enough to dedicate much time to haxorrrring it to pieces. But yeah, I know an infosec guy that specialises in poking holes in OSX and has found maaannnnyy of them.

  3. I find it interesting that you consider anti-virus unnecessary. Do you know that there have been vulnerabilities in Windows that don’t require any user interaction? Worms often propagate by scanning a network and attacking OS vulnerabilities. In my decade or more of computing, I’ve been hit by one or two viruses or worms that seemingly came from nowhere. Though I rarely interact with my AV program, I believe it’s better to have one around for those very rare incidents than to take the chance that I’ve become one of those idiots that are zombified in a bot net.

  4. Hi Josh! As I stated in that post and in the comments of the poll itself, I am behind several layers of firewall and consider them very necessary. It’s been about 4 years now of multiple computers online every day without A/V and I’ve not been infected. Our firewall router logs show many attempts on our network, but that’s what it’s there to shield us from.

  5. I wonder if you mean to say that 41% is a plurality, rather than a majority.


    Hope this is of interest…

  6. @joshua chill a little – JOKE note the smiley.

  7. Kay, I’m not sure how a firewall can protect you from viruses (as opposed to worms). Its job is to do packet filtering, and it will make zero difference if you open that dodgy email attachment.

    Common sense is what makes all the difference, and this is what has served you well against infection.

    As for myself, I always have an antivirus running on my windows boxes. I haven’t had a virus for years, but how would I know for sure unless I check?

  8. Hi Shane,

    A firewall obviously doesn’t protect from viruses – I was referring to the worms and hack attempts that one of the commenters mentioned.

    As for how can I tell that I’m not infected? There are plenty of remote anti-virus scanners – my other half has every now and then laughed nervously at what he considers my stupidity and remotely scanned my machines – and never found anything untoward. Also, it’s usually pretty easy to tell when something is not right with your machine, when programs start misbehaving our memory and processor use goes nuts.

    Totally agree with you that common sense is the key. Here’s to more of it for everyone!

  9. James, thanks for the correction. I was not aware of the difference in terms but now I am!