Antivirus Software. What to Look For
In keeping with our “Basic Internet Security” theme, let’s take a look at antivirus and anti-malware software. While we cannot possibly cover all the different programs out there, we do want to cover the basics of what you should look for in this software.
Most systems come with a trial version of antivirus software already installed. These may not always be the best choice due to cost, but considering they come with a discount code if you sign up they may be a good option. Our advice is to not uninstall these programs if you choose not to use them.
It is important to note that Anitvirus and Malware are different. I asked our technical director to give a basic differentiation between the two:
“While discussing it (the term antivirus and malware) you can use it interchangeably.”
“While talking about purchase options not so much.” Especially with software that say one or the other in their name (ie Malwarebytes). Seeing as the differences between the two basically come down to how they infect a system not so much what they do while they are there. Virus is an active hunter effectively and malware kinda just hitches along for the ride.” (hence sometimes harder two get rid of) – Nick Chernwichan , AES Computer Tech
How antivirus software differ from firewalls is while firewalls do prevent unknown applications and programs from accessing your device, they do not identify or remove anything. They help by limiting the activity of malicious software by blocking incoming and outgoing requests on certain ports. This may not prevent a virus or worm attached as a link in an email from getting through. Phishing emails are a good example of this.
The “phishing” email was not stopped by the firewall. Hence it ends up in the users inbox and if the user clicks the link in the email, it sets some bad stuff loose in the form of malware or adware just to name a few.
This is where antivirus software takes over. The software is designed to be “on the alert” for the nasties and when it detects their presence, it captures them and moves them to a quarantined file – basically jail- for the nasties.
Antivirus will also detect items that could potentially be a problem and will quarantine these files as well. The user may then review each file to determine whether it is safe or not prior to downloading.
It is important to note that while Windows Defender that came with your computer has gotten better over the years, it is still somewhat a lower ranked antivirus software.
The question is – which software is the most suitable for your needs? Free or paid? There are some very good free programs out there, but generally the paid products offer more features for a yearly subscription cost. You will have to decide for yourself what you want.
Below are some general guidelines to help in your decision.
Malware or Antivirus- As stated at the beginning there is a difference between the two. When deciding on a product to purchase, you want to make sure that it scans for and protects against all major virus and malware threats including ransomware and rootkits etc. Make sure you ask questions if you are not sure, as you want to pay for the features you need and not for ones you don’t.
Ease of use – Pick a product that that fits your technical capability. Some people like to adjust their settings while others want to just install and forget it.
Free trial – If a product offers a free trial, it gives you the opportunity to try before you buy to see if it is the right product for you.
High malware detection rate- You will want a product that stops the majority of malware, whether it is common malware or zero-day malware (brand new)
Email and web protection- Make sure the product automatically screens email attachments and web pages before you open and or load them.
Doesn’t slow down your device- Be careful that the software does not overload your computer either during active scans or while it runs in the background.
Keep in mind that with any of these products it is extremely important that you keep them updated.
Hopefully this article will give you a very basic knowledge of antivirus products and how to look for the right product. I have also included some links below which the reader may find helpful.