For those who intend to bring their notebook computers to Nepal or plan to use a computer in and around cyber cafes, make sure that the computer that you are using has an up-to-date Anti-Virus software installed. Back at home, yeah, yeah, protect yourself from viruses blah, blah and it really wasn’t a problem because ant-virus protection is the norm (I get the occasional one or two viruses a year). Let’s just say that here in Nepal, computer virus/worm infections is a large-scale epidemic here and it is nothing like I have ever seen before.
One of the main reasons for the spread of computer viruses is that nobody wants to pay for anything and thus pirated software and out-of-date anti-virus programs are frequently used on most computers. Almost all of the web and computer consultants I have met have admitted to using pirated Windows OS software, most of which are frozen at Service Pack 1 or 2. If any thing goes wrong, all computers simply just get reformatted and get reinstalled with Windows, Office, and even some pricey Adobe software programs (sometimes every few months).
Another reason that viruses spread so quickly is that the most common way of sharing files between people is through “Pen USB Drives”. Since electricity availability is still an issue and high-speed internet access is a joke (or excessively expensive), the use of the pen drive network is social norm for sharing and storing files.
Side note: whenever I see someone whip out their pen drive and wants to stick it into my notebook, I scream with horror. Without a doubt, that pen drive is surely infected with something and I do not stick anything into my computer without knowing where it has been.
Since I work in the HIV/AIDS sector, I often chide with my colleagues that pen drives are like penises and that someone should invent a USB-size condom.
So ke garne (what to do?)
Protect yourself with the following anti-virus programs. Below are my recommendations – all of which I have used and experienced in action here in Nepal.
Not free Anti-Virus Software
Kaspersky Anti-Virus – Trialed and tested thoroughly by previous IT Volunteers (thank you Neil), this Russian-based software has proven to be effective in fighting viruses, especially in a pen-drive network setting. As soon as you insert a pen drive into a computer protected by Kaspersky, the program automatically (and noticeably) reacts (“Hello, what do you have there?”) and scans the USB hard drive immediately. Despite being in the “not-free” category, a Kaspersky 1-year license is fairly inexpensive and can be installed on a network server.
Norton Anti-Virus – I use it and though it is expensive it has served me well with up-to-date software upgrades and virus definitions downloaded on a daily basis. It’s the grand-daddy of all Anti-virus software.
Avira Anti-Virus – I haven’t personally used the paid version of this Anti-Virus software, but if it is anything like it’s free version (mentioned below) then I guess it is definitely worth mentioning here.
Free Anti-Virus Software
If you have to go the “free” route, here is what I recommend from best to worst.
Avira Anti-Virus Personal Edition – all of our office computers were using AVG Free Edition for a couple of months without any problems. It wasn’t until I decided to install Avira Anti-Virus Personal Edition on a new computer and found out later that it detected a virus from a pen drive that grabbed a file from the other computers. This version of Avira is light-weight and less resource-use intensive than the “other product” for which I am going to mention below (way below).
ClamWin – It’s free and it is open-source. It’s not bad although I have seen it take a day or two to update it’s virus definition list with a virus that I know that just came out and infected another computer that I used.
AVG Free Edition – the “other product”. Although AVG is considered one of the big boys back in North America, it certainly isn’t holding it’s own here in Nepal. I wouldn’t even bother installing the free version unless you are planning to install the paid version later. I along with most Nepali computer consultants here thought that AVG would be the best free anti-virus alternative. However, considering that most Nepali computers here are generally slow (with 500 GB of RAM at most, 250 MB of RAM on average), AVG made our computers even slower not to mention miss some of the viruses that Avira and Kaspersky seem to handle with ease. Maybe it is because Avira (Germany) and Kaspersky (Russia) are more familiar with how computer viruses spread in this part of the world? Who knows?
Other Anti-Virus Software Programs
ESET NOD32 Antivirus – I’ve seen it used in many Cyber Cafes here (although who knows if they are up-to-date.)
If you are finding yourself in a sticky situation where a pen drive comes out of no where and begins to search for your USB port, stand firm and say “Sorry, we just met and I’m not that kind of guy/girl so before we engage in any file-transferring activities, lets get your pen drive tested”.
Got any other Anti-virus software program recommendations?