Scan your files for viruses using VirusTotal

By Mark O’Neill

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For the past few years, I’ve been using AVG Anti-Virus to keep my computer safe from viruses, but deep down, I’m a pretty paranoid kind of guy. Even if AVG gives a file the all-clear, I’m often left wondering, what if AVG is wrong?

What if AVG was sleeping on the job and a trojan horse went sauntering by right into my PC? AVG is an excellent app, but I am still left with that niggly uncertain feeling.   I want that second opinion to make me rest easier.

So when a colleague recommended VirusTotal which allows you to run your file past 32 anti-virus checkers simultaneously, all my paranoid fantasies were instantly put to rest. Because let’s face it – if you’re still not convinced after 32 anti-virus engines say a file is OK then you’ve got no business being near a computer!

VirusTotal was described as one of the top 100 best products of 2007 by PC World and it’s easy to see why. The service works brilliantly and some of the top names in the business are involved – Avast, AVG, McAfee, Norton Anti-Virus, Microsoft and BitDefender to name but a few.

There are three ways to use VirusTotal :

Via the website : you can upload the file you wish to check to the VirusTotal website. It will then scan it for you using those 32 anti-virus engines and then let you know on the screen if it is OK.

Via email : you can email the file to VirusTotal and you would get back an email with a detailed analysis of the file. I can’t say I am too thrilled with this option as it is fraught with risks. For a start, if the file is indeed virus-infected, you may end up being blacklisted by your email service for emailing infected attachments.

OK, you were only sending it to a virus checking service but good luck explaining that one to say Yahoo or Gmail. Plus a lot of email services such as Gmail don’t allow you to email certain file types such as “exe”, making emailing impossible.

Right-click in Windows Explorer – by installing a small program into your Windows OS, you can right-click on a file and have it uploaded to the VirusTotal website where it instantly gets checked :

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Obviously it goes without saying that VirusTotal is not a permanent replacement for a real-time virus-scanning service like AVG residing 24/7 on your computer.   I would have heart palpitations if I didn’t have that scanning facility sitting there watching everything that goes on.   But if you want to be extra-careful with a particular file, if you need a second opinion to put your mind at rest then VirusTotal’s 32 anti-virus engines are standing by to receive your file.

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