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Summary:

If you have a file that you want to ensure is clear of viruses, trojans, spyware and other malware, you should check out VirusTotal. It’s a free web app that allows you to upload files which are then scanned using antivirus engines from 39 different vendors.

While you should always have up-to-date virus protection installed on your machine, no single antivirus vendor’s database is going to be 100 percent comprehensive all the time. If you have a file that you want to ensure is clear of viruses, trojans, spyware and other malware, you should check out VirusTotal. It’s a free web app that allows you to upload files which are then scanned using antivirus engines from 39 different vendors — providing a much more comprehensive check than you could possibly hope to achieve yourself.

Using VirusTotal is simple; just head to the web site and upload your file. The service will scan your file and return your results. The amount of time it takes will depend on how busy it is; there’s a service load indicator on the home page to give you an idea of how long you might have to wait.

Alternatively, you can use the handy email uploader. Just email scan@virustotal.com with your file (up to 20 MB in size) and write “SCAN” in the subject line. You’ll receive back a report report detailing the results of the analysis of your file. Again, the turnaround time depends on how busy the service is.

An alternative to emailing your files or uploading via the web site is to use the free (Windows-only) Uploader tool, which allows you you send file to the service from your desktop by adding VirusTotal to the “Send To” contextual menu.

As it can only scan the files you send to it, VirusTotal is not a good substitute for having antivirus protection installed on your machine. Additionally, as Hispasec Systems (the IT security firm behind VirusTotal) notes, even scanning a file with multiple antivirus engines can never certify it’s 100 percent free of malware. But when it comes to checking out an individual file, VirusTotal service is among the most comprehensive options available.

Know any other great antivirus tools? Share them in the comments.

By Simon Mackie

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  1. Best way ever to check whereas your poor antivirus would notice anything when executing this suspicious file you downloaded.

    The primary users of this type of service are “pirates” who check if their new baby would pass unnoticed all the current antivirus checks.

    So if virustotal does not detect anything, it can mean 2 things : either the file is clean or it has been designed by a clever pirate so that it does not trigger any alert.

    Be sure that nowadays, most viruses are tested on antivirus before being released, because there is no sense in releasing a virus that would be detected as soon as it comes out.

    PS : another similar service : http://virusscan.jotti.org

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  2. “The primary users of this type of service are “pirates” who check if their new baby would pass unnoticed all the current antivirus checks.”

    Not very smart “pirates”, as samples sent to VirusTotal are also sent to AV companies who don’t detect it.

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