One of the most common topics brought up by callers on Everyday Tech is antivirus software. People want to know what it is, if they need it, and how to get it (for free).
Since it’s such a common topic, I thought we’d spend time on the blog this week with a little guide to antivirus software.
Antivirus software is software created specifically for the purpose of keeping viruses and other malware off your computer, tablet, and/or other electronic device. Most antivirus software is actually antimalware software these days.
Malicious software, commonly known as malware, is software that is designed by an individual to wreak some kind of havoc. These can include programs intending to collect information about you (spyware), ones which serve up unwanted ads (adware), and software that can hijack or destroy your computer (viruses).
The methods used by various malware differ greatly from one to another, but ultimately their underlying purpose is one thing: to do something you didn’t authorize on your computer. Some are relatively benign, and early virus creation focused on being mischievous but not necessarily devious. Now, however, the tables have turned; almost all malware is has evil intentions.
Antimalware software is an absolute necessity given the prevalence of spyware, adware, and viruses in today’s computing world. Here are a few numbers to chew on:
If those numbers aren’t enough to convince you that the threat from malware on any platform isn’t real, then just trust me: it’s real.
Each year, a number of different organizations do rigorous testing of currently available antivirus/malware suites, and rate them using various criteria. Typically, the most important metrics are:
I typically refer to PCMag and AV-TEST for information on specific pieces of software and figure out what might be the best bang for my buck - which is to say no buck. I am a big fan of anything I can get for free (who isn’t).
Here is a short list of the current top-performers, both paid and free:
Need to do a quick clean up of an already infected computer? The highest score in that department goes to Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 2.0, which is free.
Before you go crazy installing ALL THE ANTIVIRUS, please note that having more than one piece of antivirus software on your computer at a time can cause a lot of problems. Before you install any of the new software, be sure to uninstall any existing software.
The exception to this rule is clean up tools such as Malwarebytes, which is essentially a different type of software all together.
With any for-purchase antivirus software, you usually have to pay a yearly subscription fee for them to continue delivering virus definitions to you. With new viruses and malware coming out every day, if you don’t keep your software up to date you are essentially going without. Make sure that your subscriptions stay current, and that you have your software set to automatically update at least once a week.
Most antivirus software comes for any operating system, any device. Having it on your computer is great, but malware on smartphones (both Android and Apple) is becoming an increasingly large problem. Be sure to protect yourself on all fronts!
Got any advice or further comments for the readers? Leave them in the comments!
Until next time...