Whether you are aware of it or not, there is a background war going on between criminals, whose goal is to steel your personal data or your money, and security companies working hard trying to protect you from cyber attackers. Each side’s methods and tools get more sophisticated year after year, but for every advancement in security software a new piece of malware is quickly produced that works to evade the new shields.
Are you scared yet? You should be, because oftentimes consequences of a virus or hacker attack can be so much greater than PC slowdown or other inconveniences that it may take you years to fully recover (think stolen identity and the mess that may lead to).
You may have seen that modern versions of Windows come with security software preinstalled and may have even thought it should be enough to guard your PC from viruses and malware. Unfortunately, what comes with Windows is only good to provide, as Microsoft puts it, the minimum standard of protection for customers who will never purchase third-party antivirus software. And the truth is that today this minimum does not stand a chance against the latest threats being released every day.
What can you do to protect yourself from falling victim to cyber criminals? The most important step you can take is install a very good antivirus program on every computer you own, regardless of whether it is ever connected to the internet.
Choosing the Best Antivirus Software
There are so many ways viruses and malware may enter your system and do damage. Viruses are made with different goals in mind, different methods of spreading and infecting computers, as well as different inbuilt algorithms for evading security software. Trying to analyze antivirus software from the point of view of how it works for each of these and other parameters is a time-consuming and complicated job, but it is not necessary. When shopping for antivirus software, there are three main questions you should ask, answers to which will give you the information you need to make the right choice for your specific situation. Here are these questions:
How Did The Software Perform in Tests?
Each company claims their antivirus product is the best and provides protection that surpasses that of their competitors. You probably know that such claims are common advertisement practice and are not to be blindly trusted, but should ideally be verified. Instead of running your own tests, you can rely on the results of tests performed by renowned industry experts. After all, they have the knowledge and experience, as well as the tools to do a thorough job of checking the parameters that really matter for good performance.
Three of the most well-known and widely trusted authorities in antivirus software testing are the Austrian AV-Comparatives, the German AV-Test and the UK-based Virus Bulletin. All of them run independent tests of antivirus software performance for proactive and reactive protection, as well as for false positives, usability and a number of other factors that play a role in AV software effectiveness. These labs keep millions of malware samples and update the collection with newly released malware all the time throwing these threats at the software being tested. This is the kind of testing that would be impossible to perform on a regular household computer and it is able to detect any AV software vulnerabilities or defects.
Another type of testing is checking how well antivirus software can co-exist with other programs on a PC. OPSWAT is a widely recognized authority in testing antivirus software for compatibility with mainstream security and other technology solutions. If a program is certified by OPSWAT, it means it is unlikely to cause glitches and compatibility issues when installed.
Does the Software Have the Features I Need?
Once you have selected a few antivirus programs that scored the highest in comparative tests, you need to apply other criteria to narrow down the results of your research. The factor that matters now is how well the selected programs will work for your particular situation.
If you have an older or lower-spec computer, is the software light enough on system resources that it won’t slow it down?
If you are a gamer, does the software have a gaming mode that turns off notifications and ensures your game is not interrupted by AV activity?
If you use the software on a laptop, does it have a power-saving mode that will not drain your battery?
If you bank and shop online, does it have special features to protect online transactions?
It helps to read through the list of features for a few antivirus programs and decide what matters most to you. Clean up your shortlist from AV programs that do not have the features you need or want the most.
What Kind of Support Is Provided with the Software?
This is especially important if you are not very computer-savvy. Oftentimes, a free product does not come with any type of customer support and requires a paid subscription if you want to be able to contact someone for assistance. Paid products may have email-only support or also offer telephone assistance, and you need to decide for yourself whether email works well for you or if you absolutely need to have the option to talk to a live person over the phone. Sometimes technical support is a service you need to purchase in addition to the main product. These are the things you need to pay attention to when selecting an antivirus product.
Once you have selected a winner, install it on your computer and enable all of its features for maximum protection. With a top-of-the-line antivirus product your computer will have the best fighting chance against malware, and your financial and other personal info will stay secure from unauthorized access.