How to Test Your Antivirus, Firewall, Browser, and Software Security

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So you’ve got an antivirus program guarding your system, your firewall is up, your browser is up to date, and also you’re not lacking any safety patches. However how may be certain your defenses are literally working in addition to you suppose they’re?

These instruments may also be notably helpful when you’re making an attempt to shortly decide how safe another person’s PC is. They’ll present you simply how a lot weak software program the PC has put in.

Check Your Antivirus

No, we’re not going to suggest downloading a virus to check your antivirus program — that’s a recipe for catastrophe. When you ever wish to check your antivirus software program, you should utilize the EICAR check file. The EICAR check file isn’t an precise virus — it’s only a textual content file containing a string of innocent code that prints the textual content “EICAR-STANDARD-ANTIVIRUS-TEST-FILE!” when you run it in DOS. Nevertheless, antivirus packages are all educated to acknowledge the EICAR file as a virus and reply to it simply as they’d reply to an precise virus.

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You should use the EICAR file to check your real-time antivirus scanner and guarantee it’s going to catch new viruses, however it may also be used to check different kinds of antivirus safety. For instance, when you’re working antivirus software program on a Linux mail server and also you wish to check that it’s working correctly, you may e-mail the EICAR file via the mail server and guarantee it’s caught and quarantined.

Word: It’s necessary to check and ensure all of your defenses are appropriately configured and dealing correctly, however this could’t assure your anti-virus will catch each new virus. Since there are new viruses daily, it pays to nonetheless be vigilant about what you obtain.

You may obtain an EICAR check file from the EICAR web site. Nevertheless, you would additionally create your personal EICAR check file by opening a textual content editor (resembling Notepad), copy-pasting the next textual content into the file, after which saving it:


Your antivirus program should react as though you had just created an actual virus.

EICAR test file quarantined by Microsoft Defender.

Port Scan Your Firewall

If you’re behind a router, the router’s network address translation (NAT) feature effectively acts as a firewall, preventing other computers on the Internet from connecting to your computer. To ensure that your computer’s software is sheltered from the Internet — either with a NAT router or through a software firewall if your computer is connected directly to the Internet — you can use the ShieldsUP! test website. It will perform a port scan of your IP address, determining whether ports are open or closed at your address. You want ports to be closed to protect potentially vulnerable services from the wild west environment of the open Internet.

RELATED: How to Forward Ports on Your Router

Check Browser Extensions

Browser extensions aren’t as vulnerable as old browser plug-ins (especially Java and Flash) were, but you still need to keep an eye on them.

RELATED: What Is a Browser Extension?

Browser extensions only function because they can read and modify the content of the webpage you’re interacting with. The privacy and security implications of that are huge — every time you download and install a browser extension, you’re trusting that the author hasn’t included something malicious.

Of course, some browser extensions — maybe even most — are perfectly safe to use, but without auditing the code yourself, you can’t really be sure. If you’re going to use a browser extension, try to stick with extensions that have lots of users, and no complaints about malicious behavior. Additionally, make sure that the permissions the extension requests make sense for the service it provides. As an example, there is no reason for an adblocking extension to need access to your microphone and webcam; if you notice something like that, you should reconsider installing that extension.

Update Your Software

On operating systems with central software repositories (like Linux) or app stores (like iOS, Android, and the Microsoft Store found on newer versions of Windows), it’s easy to tell that all your applications are up-to-date with the latest released security patches. It’s all handled through a single tool that finds updates automatically.

Click the library button, the click "Update All.:

Most applications installed on Windows computers don’t have that luxury. They’re not installed through the Microsoft Store, and the updates are handled on an application-by-application basis. Luckily, a majority of applications will automatically check for their own updates. Generally, you should allow them to update unless you have a specific reason to avoid an update.

Any applications that are primarily designed to send information over the Internet (like chat apps, browsers, VPNs, etc) should be updated more often. Their updates are much more likely to contain essential security fixes.

Of course, this doesn’t cover everything. There’s no way to ensure your antivirus will catch every virus ever created  — it won’t because no antivirus is perfect. There’s no way to ensure you won’t fall prey to phishing or another social-engineering attack. But these tools will help you test some of your most important defenses and ensure they’re ready for an assault.

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