Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


VirusScan 7.0 - Home Edition
by
Alan German

I don't intend to subject OPCUG members to yet another lengthy tale of my adventures with McAfee software, especially since my review of the VirusScan package is still underway.  However, just in case Santa stuffed someone's stocking with a shiny, red, anti-virus package, an interim word of caution is advisable.

In short, the installation process as specified by McAfee, is fatally flawed and users should be prepared to use a little discretion in order to safely place the software on their machines.  Once correctly installed, the virus scanning software has some very nice features, but more on  this next time...

Having ripped the shrink-wrap from the box, placed the CD-ROM in drive, and answered the first few questions for the installation process, I was confronted by an indication that I should uninstall my previous version of VirusScan before continuing.  Although, there was no indication to this effect in the manual, I didn't see this as a major problem, as I am constantly updating the signature files and am used to seeing a lot of files being replaced.  So, at this point I dutifully removed the earlier version of VirusScan.

The next installation attempt determined that I now had to remove my ZoneAlarm firewall since this "can't co-exist with VirusScan Home Edition's Firewall feature".  My antennae went up a little at this point, but I'm reviewing the product for the benefit of mankind, or at least for my fellow members of OPCUG, and so felt that I should "follow the bouncing ball" to give the package a fair test.  So, I said goodbye to my old friend, and waited for the machine to reboot.

Now, I was finally motoring, the CD and hard drives were whirring, a "Typical" installation had been selected, registration information gathered, and files copied.  The next major way point was that the installation routine recommended to check for, download, and install updated files.  Doubtless, the package had been inside the shrink-wrap for some time, and so it seemed like a good idea to follow the recommendation.  So, I pressed the button to start, and was told that the system had to download 64 files, of around 140 KB each.  Things were going just fine, 30 plus files downloaded, and counting, when the machine abruptly rebooted.

Hmmh!  You know, there was no firewall icon visible in the system tray.  And, machines that spontaneously reboot when connected to the Internet just may have a little problem with a worm.

Once the computer came back to life, I checked Help - About McAfee VirusScan to determine that the virus signature files were Version 4.0.4233, dated 11/13/2002.  I then manually updated these to the then-current Version 4.0.4296.  Running a virus scan on my hard drive soon identified the problem - the W32/Nachi worm in the files  SCCHOST.EXE and DLLHOST.EXE.  The worm obviously entered my machine during the file download process while there was no firewall in place to protect against such incursions.

The situation was quickly resolved by reloading a previous disk image of the operating system, and going through the VirusScan installation process once more, complete with the removal of Zone Alarm.  But, this time, I made sure that the option to check for updates was firmly unchecked, and continued with the main installation process.

There were no worms downloaded this time, but I found the process somewhat confusing.  Part of the installation process indicates to wait "while Windows configures McAfee's Personal Firewall".  This seems to suggest that the firewall has been installed, configured and is doing its job. Consequently, when the installation continues and congratulates you on a successful installation of McAfee's VirusScan Home Edition, and recommends "that you check for updates", of course, you feel good about hitting "Next".  Don't do it!

Instead, as noted above, first uncheck the box for "Check for an available McAfee VirusScan Home Edition update", then press Next.  The subsequent dialogue box indicate that the installation of VirusScan is complete and offers to start the program.  Hit Finish.  VirusScan's splash screen is displayed, the program icon appears in the system tray, the main menu screen pops up, and a system scan automatically starts.  Stop the scan since you are essentially wasting time checking your systems against old signature files.  A pop up window indicates that the scan operation was aborted.  Clearing this message removes the main menu.  Double-click on the icon in the system tray to restore the menu.

One of the options on the menu screen is "Firewall".  Click on this link to run the McAfee Firewall Configuration Assistant, a wizard that "will activate McAfee Firewall on your PC".  So, here's the rub.  The installation process loaded the firewall but didn't activate it.  If you go out to the Internet with no firewall, you have no protection against malicious data packets.  You may update your virus scanner, but you may also receive the W32/Nachi worm, or similar!

I opted to run the wizard and further configure the firewall's operational characteristics.  With both VirusScan and Personal Firewall installed, I could manually request a check for software updates, download all the required files, and safely bring the system up to date.

So, the word of caution is as follows:  Under no circumstances should you blindly follow McAfee's instructions for this software package.  Make sure that you activate the firewall portion of the package - before - allowing the program to go out onto the Internet to look for any updates!

I have to say that, after installing VirusScan and the Personal Firewall in a more logical fashion than that suggested by the installation process, I have had no further difficulties.  In fact, the Home Edition of VirusScan has an automatic update feature that provides a very slick method of keeping the signature files up to date.  But, as I said earlier, more on this in a future article...



Bottom Line:

VirusScan 7.0
$59.99 (for currently available VirusScan 8.0)
from McAfee Security
Web site: http://mcafee-at-home.com


Copyright and Usage
Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members.