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How to test your Anti-virus software.

Anti-viruses have always been the rave but the singular most important thing you can do to protect your PC is to make sure you keep it updated and install all the latest security patches. But what happens if you want to test your anti-virus to see if it is actually working? Rather go the dangerous route of loading a live virus into your system, you can use the EICAR test file. 

The file was produced by a group of anti-virus researchers. It is not a virus and does not contain any fragments of viral code but contains ACSII characters. It is a legitimate DOS program that has been set up in such a way that a working anti-virus should react to it as if it were an actual virus.

The test file can be downloaded from here. Four test files are provided so as to test the anti-virus scanning abilities in different scenarios. One version contains the test file inside a zip archive. A good anti-virus scanner will spot a 'virus' inside an archive. While another contains the same test file embedded in an archive several layers deep. This can be used to see whether the virus scanner checks archives more than only one level deep. I tried to download all four files and in every single attempt my anti-virus blocked it, so that means it is working fine. 

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