What you need to know before you make a purchase.
If you have a computer, you definitely need protection. No one on the planet is ever completely safe from malware attacks, so you will definitely need to keep your technology secure with anti-virus utilities.
Having said that, the need for anti-virus protection doesn’t mean that there’s a high probability of getting infected with a virus. It’s more about protecting yourself from malware attacks that are about making money these days.
Anti-virus software is geared to manage the following types of attacks:
- Adware (software that collects data for marketing and downloads and displays unsolicited ads when the user’s online. Without the knowledge of the user, adware can also redirect searches to advertising website)
- Ransomware (a type of malware that limits or blocks user access to a system and forces victims to make an online payment to regain access to the system)
- Rootkits (programs basically hide the fact that a system has been compromised. They can essentially allow malware to remain in your system while hiding in plain sight)
- Spyware (in general is designed to “spy” on you and obtain data about a computer’s activities by transmitting it secretly from the hard drive)
- Trojans (are malicious programs that hack the system by misleading the user)
The anti-virus software segment is quite extensive with a vast selection of freeware and commercial-ware. The industry is expected to keep thriving as malware targeting of mobile device users grow rapidly. Further, according to Kaspersky, their labs detected 884,774 new malicious programs which are essentially a three-fold increase from the previous year’s total of 295,539.
What’s unnerving is the fact that 94,344 unique users were targeted by mobile ransomware (which was a five-fold increase from 18,478 in 2014).
What’s Anti-Virus Software?
Anti-virus software or anti-malware software is a computer program that is used to detect, remove, and prevent malicious software. It was originally developed to detect and delete computer viruses, so the name has stuck since then.
Anti-virus software today works on defending your computer and smart mobile devices from browser hijackers, backdoors, worms, fraudtools, and ransomware to name a few. It can also be extended to protection from spam and phishing attacks, botnet DDoS attacks, and much more.
Anti-virus utilities provide protection by scanning the computer for malicious code before downloading a program or opening a file. It happens so quickly that it can feel instantaneous, but all the files will be scanned before you can download it onto your computer.
Here’s what you can expect from common anti-virus products on the market:
Malware scanning upon access: Malware scan whenever a computer is turned on.
Malware scanning on schedule: If the device is on around the clock, users can set up a schedule to scan for malware. This could be scheduled during downtime like the middle of the night.
Malware scanning on demand: Whenever there’s a reason for concern, a malware scan can be conducted on demand. This could be a full system scan, examination of a particular file or a drive.
Full-scale traditional anti-virus tools: Almost all anti-virus utilities come with standard tools such as remote assistance, safe zone browsing, rescue disk, sandbox, and statistics.
Real-time monitoring: When a computer is online, there can be exposure to malware from various websites. As a result, firewall protection in real-time can help keep your machine and data secure.
The Bottom Line
Even though operating systems come with their own anti-virus programs, these are often not the best choice. Software like Windows Defender is notorious for performing poorly in independent lab tests, so it’s always best to go with a third-party solution.
How do you choose the best anti-virus package for you?
The best way to pick a company that provides the best solutions for your needs is to read consumer reviews and lab test results. There are plenty of reviews from companies and individuals out there, so it’s best to start out by going over the latest reviews of anti-malware products.
When you check out consumer reviews, there are few things to look out for. Firstly, you have to take a look at the statistical significance. There needs to be a significant number of reviews for the star rating to mean anything.
Next, pay attention to the language being used in these reviews. Seeing if the reviewers are using positive or negative language in their reviews can be a better indicator than numerical values. So don’t just stick to star ratings.
Furthermore, pay attention to what people are saying about the company’s customer service. If the company has negative reviews, then it’s probably a bad solution for a small business.
When you read through the product descriptions and consumer reviews, it’s important to ask yourself these three questions:
- 1. What are my expectations?
- 2. What’s the difference between a good anti-virus solution and a bad one?
- 3. What are the costs?
The Bottom Line
In the age of internet banking and identity theft, it’s a good idea to take some time to choose the best package for you.
As stated before, there are plenty of anti-virus solutions to choose from, but all these are not the same. First, you have to identify your specific needs when it comes to protection against malware.
For example, if you’re an individual who doesn’t spend much time online, standard (or free) anti-virus software should suffice. But your needs will be different if you’re someone who uses the internet for everything from email to banking, to e-commerce. As a result, it will be imperative to have a solution with internet security.
Small business owners should choose a (commercial) comprehensive package as technical support can prove to be vital if the whole network is taken down by a virus. Further, tools like blocking access to individual websites can also be useful for both small enterprises and parents and these features are only available in paid solutions.
The Bottom Line
Being aware of the kind of protection you need along with usability can save you a lot of time and money!
Good Anti-Virus Solution vs Bad Anti-Virus Solution
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best anti-virus software for you. However, there are three key factors that separate the good and the bad.
A “good” anti-virus solution will be comprehensive, reliable, and effective.
No matter what anti-malware program you go with, it’s good to find one that provides constant round the clock protection of all computer domains and network elements. Further, the software should be enabled to monitor and protect all entry points by detecting malicious code in real-time.
Reliability is essential to maintain security, so if the anti-virus program malfunctions as a result of conflicts with other programs, it will be rendered useless. This makes it important to take the time and do some research to identify the pros and cons surrounding each brand.
Efficiency is paramount to functioning in a rapidly evolving aggressive environment. Malware like Trojans and worms are increasingly becoming more sophisticated, so the anti-virus program needs to be able to stay ahead of an ever-changing environment.
A quality anti-virus program will be enabled to effectively detect and remove malware from the computer. Further, it should also be able to operate autonomously without much input from the user.
The Bottom Line
If you do your research by reading through customer reviews and lab test results, you will be able to quickly notice the difference between a good anti-virus product and a bad one.
Free vs Paid
Before comparing the costs, let’s talk about the difference between free solutions and paid solutions. Most anti-virus products and have both options and the key difference between both is the amount of tools that you’ll have access to and technical support.
Testing labs have consistently found that both paid and unpaid products faired about the same when it came to uncovering an infection. However, paid products faired significantly better when it came to detecting new threats.
When it comes to free anti-virus solutions, regular consumer complaints have all been about the program recording false positives. Further, free software usually comes with advertising, so pop-up boxes have also been a source of frustration.
Paid programs, on the other hand, don’t have any advertising and are extremely user-friendly. So it’s a piece of cake to install and run with minimum conflicts with other programs. Further, commercial anti-virus software also assesses and rates the legitimacy of websites which makes browsing a lot safer.
With a free version, you will (probably) have to update it yourself. Further, you won’t have access to features like control over what websites can be viewed and home networking features like Wi-Fi protection (one of McAfee’s key features). But for the average user, the free version should good enough.
Most anti-virus programs range from $30 to $60 with a lot them priced around $39.99. Both leading brands such as Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Kaspersky Anti-Virus are both $39.99 while McAfee Antivirus Plus is $59.99.
The Bottom Line
Whether you download it for free or pay around $39.99, make sure that the product you choose matches your specific needs.
Who’s the best?
There are so many options, so the best fit for each individual will be relative. In recent years, Kaspersky and Bitdefender have been winning lab tests. If you’re looking for something that doesn’t take up much space, Webroot SecureAnywhere will be the ideal solution.
If you’re looking for protection on multiple devices for a single subscription, McAfee is the way to go. With this option, you can protect all your Android, OS, iOS, and Windows devices.