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Testing Your Anti-Virus

Have you ever wondered if your Anti-Virus software is actually working? It might appear to be running, but how do you know that in the event of a virus being discovered, it would actually do something - or would it not detect it at all?

As luck would have it, there is a standard test file you can use to test your anti-virus. It's called the EICAR Anti-virus Test File, and can be easily created with a simple text editor. All you need to do is create a new, blank text file and paste the following string in to it:


Now, save it as eicar.com, and you should get a warning that a virus has been detected.

This is about as close to a universal test file as you can get, although there may be some anti-virus packages which don't recognise it. I can confirm that anti-virus products from: Avast, Avira, Clam, McAfee, Sophos, Symantec and Trend Micro - should all detect the EICAR test file. AVG will also detect it, with a little playing about.

Two notes of caution about this: Firstly - that your antivirus software has detected the EICAR test file does not mean that it is up to date, or even scanning the files you think it is scanning. Secondly - you should let whoever monitors your antivirus know that you're doing these tests before you start them. If it's you who monitors the antivirus alerts, bear in mind that you should always investigate alerts for EICAR, as it may be more serious than you think.