10 obscure antivirus tools worth checking out

You know about the big players in the AV field -- but a number of lesser-known tools may serve your needs as well (or maybe even better). Jack Wallen runs through some of your choices.

Viruses come and go. Some of them are simply annoyances, but others are nasty little bits of malicious single-minded code that want to take down your machine or take away your data. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools out there that can help you deal with the problem. Some of those tools are well known: Symantec, McAfee, Norton. But you can also find tools that will serve you at a fraction of the cost or a fraction of the CPU processes.

I'm going to introduce you to some of these lesser-known antivirus tools. In the end, you will have more tools for your toolkit than you ever though you would have... all of which are ready to immunize you from machine-crushing code.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: BitDefender

BitDefender is one of my favorites on the list. Why? Because it has one of the best graphical virus tools available for the Linux operating system. Of course it doesn't offer just a Linux solution. BitDefender offers antivirus for both Linux and Windows, as well as for various server installations. In fact, BitDefender has solutions for mail servers, Samba servers, desktops, and much more.

2: Avira Antivir

Avira Antivir has, in many cases, found viruses where others have not. One of my favorite uses for this solution is to slap it on a Linux machine (the Linux version is command-line based, but does have a GUI if you prefer), attach an infected Windows drive externally, and run Avira on that drive. Much like BitDefender, Avira will find viruses many other solutions won't find. And because it is mostly command line, it is also quite a bit faster than other tools.

3: ClamAV

ClamAV is mostly a mail server antivirus for Linux, but it does a bang-up job. If you're hosting a Linux-based mail server, you will want to include ClamAV on it; otherwise, you risk winding up spreading the love of viruses around the globe.

4: Avast

Avast is not as much a wallflower as the other tools, but it certainly has never been crowned Prom Queen. It's an outstanding tool that offers a lot of options many other tools over look. One of my favorite aspects of Avast is the built-in rootkit check. You can't go wrong when you know your antivirus is keeping you safe from rootkits.

5: rkhunter

rkhunter is not so much an antivirus tool as it is an anti-rootkit tool. If you've never come across a rootkit on a machine, consider yourself lucky. Very lucky. Rootkits are the Mac Daddy of viruses. And if your current antivirus solution doesn't protect you from rootkits, either add a rootkit protection tool on your system or uninstall and install one that does!

6: Dr.Web CureIt!

Dr.Web CureIt! is an interesting tool in that it requires no installation. It's a simple binary file that, when double-clicked, will execute and scan your machine. The only drawback is that to get the latest definitions, you have to re-download the tool and use the newest version. But how easy would this tool be to use as a portable virus scanner?

7: ESET Smart Security

ESET Smart Security is from the makers of the NOD32 Antivirus tool that has been around for quite some time. ESET sets itself apart by being an antivirus and a firewall in one. But the firewall isn't just a standard firewall. It's a "learning firewall," in that it observes how its users use the network and, theoretically, adapts to that usage. ESET also protects you from removable data and from viruses that attempt to disable your antivirus protection.

8: ZoneAlarm

ZoneAlarm is an antivirus tool that offers something others do not -- DataLock. The DataLock portion of ZoneAlarm uses encryption on your hard drive so that it is readable only by those with the encryption key. DataLock also offers pre-boot authentication so that unauthorized users can't even boot your machine. Yes, these features can be added from the BIOS or from other tools, but with ZoneAlarm, you have antivirus, encryption, and boot authentication all in one.

9: iAntiVirus

iAntiVirus is for -- you guessed it -- Mac. Like Linux, nothing is immune (no matter how much the media and the PR say it is). And that beautiful new Mac you bought can use protection as well as that new quad-core Windows 7 machine. iAntiVirus is as inherently Mac as you will ever find in an antivirus tool. Not only is it user-friendly, it has that same Mac interface that everyone has grown to love (or hate). And what's best, iAntiVirus works like any other antivirus software you have ever used -- only it does so on a Mac. So it must be better.

10: Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft Security Essentials has to be on this list. After all, it wouldn't be fair of me to highlight inherently Linux and Mac tools without offering the Windows equivalent. What is really surprising about this antivirus protection is that it is free AND produced by Microsoft. Those two don't usually go hand in hand. If you want free virus protection, and you want something that will seamlessly integrate with Windows, Security Essentials is your best bet.


Those are just 10 of the less well known antivirus solutionsf. Of course, there are plenty more out there. Do you rely on a somewhat obscure tool for antivirus? If so, share it with your fellow TechRepublic readers. After all, the perfect antivirus solution is still out there, waiting to be found and enjoyed by PC users and admins across the globe.