Anti-Virus Software Are Useless, Says Google Security Engineer

During a hacking conference today, Google’s senior security engineer caused quite a hubbub due to a statement he gave.

Canary in a Coal Mine

Darren Bilby suggested that the anti-viruses are useless. He compared the anti virus software to a canary in a coal mine. The canary is used to detect if there are toxic fumes present in the coal mine or not. Darren said,

Antivirus does some useful things, but in reality, it is more like a canary in the coal mine. It is worse than that. It’s like we are standing around the dead canary saying ‘Thank god it inhaled all the poisonous gas’

Operation Aurora, 2009

He added more weight to his argument by mentioning a series of cyber attacks carried out in 2009. The attacks named ” 2009 Operation Aurora campaign” made a large number of computers vulnerable to potential cyber attacks by hackers with vested interests.

According to media reports the attacks were aimed at several big name companies including Yahoo, Symantec (The one that makes Norton antivirus), Adobe Systems, Juniper Networks and Rackspace.

Bilby said that there was no need for the “magic” through ineffective anti-viruses. He added,

We need to stop investing in those things we have shown do not work. We are giving people systems that are not safe for the internet and we are blaming the user.

Bad Advice for Internet Usage

Advice for safe internet usage is equally bad, according to Bilby. He urged the hackers present at Kiwicon to focus less on finding the right kind of anti virus which happens to be effective and instead focus more on researching better defenses against this issue, for example, whitelisting trusted applications through your firewall.

You should generally follow good advice about surfing the web safely. Avoid any download links that ask you to fill out a survey. Generally avoid links that offer you to download a pc cleaner of sorts or to clean up your pc of viruses, download games/music/movies for free etc.

As far as a regular internet user is concerned, you should always use antiviruses. While Bilby suggests that they are useless, he only cites a commercial cyber attack. Yes, antiviruses have a hard time against new viruses and offer little protection against a good hacker, they are still enough for the job in 99% of the situations.

Take this analogy for example, just because we can die from incurable diseases doesn’t mean we should stop taking medicine for the ones which are curable and can be prevented. The internet is full of such diseases (viruses) which can be defended against successfully, so why not protect yourself from those when you clearly can.

A techie, Overwatch and Street Fighter enthusiast, and Editor at ProPakistani.


  • The author does make a good point that even if we can’t be 100% sure that we won’t be hacked or attacked by a virus,it still is useful to use an antivirus to defend ourselves from the (seemingly) trivial kinds of viruses which are more abundant on the internet.
    Something is better than nothing , right?

    • Antiviruses are good in blocking traditional viruses or the ones that are in their databases but the new emerging threats are way more advanced than these antiviruses so we need intelligent behavior blockers, anti-exe and HIPS like solutions coz i think preventing is better than curing.

      • But we must agree, the human mind has always been able to transcend any barriers in its way to acheive whatever it wants.
        Unless we develop some truly artificially intelligent software capable of identifying threats on its own, this cat-and-mouse game will continue to proceed.

      • And to be honest,
        If you are a true pc-geek , then no matter what you do, you’ll almost certainly develop an “instinct” for malicious sites. You’ll immediately recognize a site’s unusual behaviours,no matter how subtle and steer away from danger.

        That’s my theory at least. 9 years using PCs.
        For the first 5 years , got every kind of malicious trojan, virus, software. You name it, i had it.
        But then i just developed an “instinct” and suddenly started to rely less and less on antiviruses.

  • D. Bibbly has given the right direction in which should think about moving in their online life. People cannot take their online life as lazily as their real life because their every action is being recoreded without their consent neither any person in this modern life can live without the luxuries IOT comes with. Therefore, it is only wiseable advice to learn how to use things. Accept or reject things on the basis of how those will affect our lives and adjust ourselves. NO AV can protect you 100% and no one is safe. 100% person saver is the one who is not connected to any communication devices (maybe?). Google senior has the view so does lots of people who share the same thinking.

  • I am using computer from a long time… I had been installing anti viruses software to protect the data from malicious viruses. Whenever i installed the antivirus some or other problems appeared in my computer. Since I left keeping antivirus in computer now it is really working wonderful… What happens I never installed the anti virus in my PC because i know if i installed once there will come more problems. Very few days back i was saying with my friend who thought antivirus software works a great job if it is installed properly and no virus or errors can attack to computer but my view point was that anti virus is itself a virus and slows the computer and performance of your computer but he did not believe that thing, Now it has been said in the article that anti viruses are useless.

  • I think he just discovered DDOS attacks or maybe he just using Mcafee so I can understand his ignorance.

  • Hoo, avast is really crazy “Avash has been updated” , LOL. I think you should give a try to 360! Yeah, It’s free!

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