Security is always a concern, and with computers storing increasing amounts of information about our digital lives, it pays to be vigilant. There are plenty of articles listing the “best” anti-virus software, but the simple fact of the matter is that all of them could miss something another may not.
What can you do? When there are many, many articles about how running multiple anti-virus programs concurrently can be detrimental to their performance, it is quite clear this is not the solution. However, it is the key to one.
Various websites exist that allow you to upload files and have them scanned through numerous anti-virus programs. Best of all, they’re free to use; if you’ve ever been suspicious of a file or installer, these can be a convenient solution.
One of the more prominent offerings in this field is Virus Total, and for good reason: it boasts file, URL, hash, domain and IP scanning functionality. The site has an extremely wide variety of assets, giving it ample reason to be so well-known in its field.
Regardless of how you choose to use Virus Total, you can be sure that the site is thorough. After scanning, a long list of programs or services are listed. These are what Virus Total has run your entry through and are where anything suspicious would be flagged.
Scan speeds are usually very good, though this can vary depending on the size of the file being uploaded, the speed of upload, and other factors. Essentially, anything that would indicate slow Internet speed elsewhere will do the same using any website relying on user uploads.
Update: Anubis services is no longer available.
While the Anubis website is not the most modern-looking, it remains an option for scanning files and URLs. The site supports Windows .exe and Android .apk files but has the rather restrictive file size limit of 8MB compared to Virus Total’s 128MB and Metascan’s 140MB. URL scanning, however, does not have the same restriction.
Anubis has one issue, and it is an unavoidable one: scanning is agonizingly slow.
URLs are placed into a queue for scanning, and while it’s possible to speed your entry by filling a randomly generated code on the home page, if you fail to do so, you could find yourself waiting days for a result. That’s not good if you want, or need, a quick answer.
Give the site its time, however, and you’ll get exceptionally detailed results. For the vast majority the site could be too in-depth with what its tests, but for those with the knowledge to put Anubis’ analyses to use, it’s very impressive.
Of the three sites, Metascan is by far the most attractive and goes above and beyond with its Chrome extension. Uploaded files are also compared to existing entries, meaning that scans can be cross-referenced against others to ensure a file is safe.
Metascan differs from other sites in the same sphere with a lack of URL scanning but makes up for it with IP address scanning. Site administrators are likely to be among the primary beneficiaries from this functionality – if you’ve seen a recurring IP address and wondered if it was part of a botnet, Metascan seeks to tell you.
Another asset of Metascan’s is its support of hash scanning. Again, this should provide considerable peace of mind when dealing with anything you suspect may have been modified or otherwise compromised.
While everyone is likely to have a preferred site for this kind of task, the three above all differ in important ways. For everyday simplicity, Virus Total is hard to beat. Its interface is straight-to-the-point, and its file size limit is generous, even if it is slightly smaller than Metascan’s.
For complex detail, there is no comparison. Anubis provides exceptionally detailed information, even if it may be beyond average user comprehension with its tradeoff being small file sizes and slower scanning. When Anubis has finished its scan, you can rest assured that everything should be as expected.