Antivirus

Is antivirus software necessary in 2020?

The perceived wisdom is that you should have antivirus software installed on your PC and an app of some kind on your mobile. Or that’s certainly been the case historically – if you don’t, the argument has always been that you’re running some major risks.However, given advancements in operating systems and security in general, is…

The perceived wisdom is that you should have antivirus software installed on your PC and an app of some kind on your mobile. Or that’s certainly been the case historically – if you don’t, the argument has always been that you’re running some major risks.

However, given advancements in operating systems and security in general, is this still true in 2020? Should you definitely be running antivirus software today? Or are there any good reasons why you might not want to?

  • Our definitive list of today’s best antivirus software
  • Looking for even more protection? Grab the best VPN
  • See why we rate Bitdefender so highly in our testing

Arguments against antivirus

antivirus on Windows 10, but there are arguments against doing so. In some cases they’re not particularly valid ones, at least in our opinion, but they exist nonetheless.

One main pillar of the ‘anti-antivirus mindset’, as it were, is that if you’re sensible and careful enough about what you do online, only visiting legitimate websites, official software stores, and policing the links you click on with a suitable degree of vigilance, you probably won’t encounter any malware anyway.

And therefore the argument is you don’t need to pay for antivirus, and even if you install a third-party free antivirus app, it’s still another program on your system that might slow it down somewhat (some antivirus software can have more of an impact on system performance, and of course free software may also pop up ads and so on).

Another more pressing worry aired in recent times is that some of the antivirus software out there carries a number of vulnerabilities, and these could be a potential avenue of exploitation for an attacker. In other words, the potential irony is that your antivirus software could be an avenue for your machine to be compromised.

That’s a legitimate concern, as we’ve seen in recent times, when for example in March 2020, Avast disabled a major part of its antivirus software which suffered from a dangerous vulnerability that a respected security researcher flagged up.

So, as you can see, there are some gray areas when it comes to answering the question of whether you should run an antivirus. However, there are much stronger reasons as to why you should use an antivirus, which we’ll explore next.

Antivirus for the win

Clearly the most worrying issue raised in the above section is the final point, so it’s worth clarifying that the chances of your antivirus being used as an avenue of attack in some manner are pretty slim. In truth, there are far bigger targets for malicious actors to focus on than any given security app.

We’re talking about gaping holes in operating systems, and much more widely used software like web browsers, which will be far juicier propositions to exploit for hackers and other miscreants.

The thing is, it’s these major targets which are the real pay dirt for malware authors, and an antivirus can defend you against those far more dangerous threats. So really, the good that these apps are doing in that respect far outweighs any potential bad in terms of possible flaws within the security of the antivirus itself. It’s that simple – although also bear in mind that to minimize any risk at all, use one of the best apps out there which are pieces of software that benefit from being tightly and securely coded.

Moving on to consider the potential slowdown that might be visited on your PC by installing an antivirus, the trick here is to check out our antivirus reviews to discover the lean apps which have little impact on system performance – there are some very streamlined products out there (like Norton and Kaspersky, for instance).

Antivirus security is important

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

As for the argument that being careful about what you download and click on is enough to keep you safe, well, that’s true to a large extent, but here’s the rub: even if you’re clued-up and super-safe, there’s always a slight chance that you might come a cropper if you’re online with absolutely no protection.

Even legitimate big-name websites can unintentionally become vehicles for malware via the adverts they serve, if the advertising networks who they’ve partnered with are compromised (this has happened to some high-profile sites in the past). So it’s a rather dangerous assumption to make that safe surfing habits and other good practices are all you need.

Besides, less tech-savvy users may not be all that confident about knowing how to stay safe online anyway, so would be seriously ill-advised to go without antivirus protection.

And for those who don’t particularly want to go to the effort of researching and trying to find the best antivirus out there, at least on Windows 10 PCs, you’re already protected by default via Windows Defender. And these days, Windows Defender provides a perfectly palatable level of protection to get by with.

The final major reason why you should use an antivirus app is the dangerous nature of the threats out there these days, with, for example, nasty strains of ransomware threatening to lock away your entire digital life, or stealthy crypto-mining malware slowing down your PC while you may not even notice.

Is antivirus software necessary in 2020?

Yes, in a word.

In truth

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Antivirus

5 easy ways to avoid identity theft and protect yourself from identity fraud

Whether you’re savvy about online security and how to look after your finances online and offline, everyone is a target for cyber criminals. Identity theft isn’t just about stealing your name, it’s the process of using details normally associated with you to spend money – often money you don’t already have.We’ve put together a list…

Whether you’re savvy about online security and how to look after your finances online and offline, everyone is a target for cyber criminals. Identity theft isn’t just about stealing your name, it’s the process of using details normally associated with you to spend money – often money you don’t already have.

  • We’ve put together a list of the best password managers
  • These are the best home security systems on the market
  • Protect your privacy online with one of the best VPN services

Identity fraud has a sudden impact 

In almost every case, identity theft happens without the victim knowing. It isn’t until occurrences of identity fraud become known that it becomes apparent that something is amiss.

This is a moment you will never forget. The realisation that someone is posing as you, taking out credit cards, applying for loans, and more, leaving you liable for the debt, is sickening.

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Sapann Design)

5 Tricks to Avoid Identity Theft

password manager with lower- and upper-case characters, numbers, and punctuation (where allowed). Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts and keep your passcodes and PINs safe. If you must write them down, lock the cheat sheet away. A password manager like LastPass is the smart option, as only one password needs to be remembered. Two-factor authentication should also be enabled where available.

Meanwhile, ensure all your devices have a password, PIN, or thumbprint access set up. Also, ensure devices have working antivirus software and stay aware of current threats, such as ransomware and phishing.

  • Also check out the best password generators

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

2. Strengthen home security

Losing a credit card or a driving license would be bad enough – losing both would put you in the fast lane to identity fraud.

You can mitigate the risk of important details being stolen by ensuring all old credit cards, letters, bank statements, and other identifiable information is shredded once it is ready to be discarded. Meanwhile, keep things like birth certificates under lock and key.

For shared accommodation, b

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Antivirus

Paid antivirus vs free antivirus: which should you get?

Antivirus software can be divided into two broad camps: free apps, and products that you must pay money for (usually known as paid or premium apps).Obviously, the difference between the two is that one involves a financial outlay and the other doesn’t. In this article, we’re going to look at which is the best choice…

Antivirus software can be divided into two broad camps: free apps, and products that you must pay money for (usually known as paid or premium apps).

Obviously, the difference between the two is that one involves a financial outlay and the other doesn’t. In this article, we’re going to look at which is the best choice for you between these two options, weighing up various key factors that will help you decide.

  • Our definitive list of today’s best antivirus software
  • Looking for even more protection? Grab the best VPN
  • See why we rate Bitdefender so highly in our testing

Budget

best free antivirus.

That said, note that some antivirus developers offer their premium products on long-term contracts at what works out very cheaply in terms of a monthly rate, and these apps give you a lot more in terms of features as we’ll discuss next. So the overall value proposition, at least with some products such as those which top our best paid antivirus list, is actually very strong. Check out how reasonable some of the best names in the business have made their premium offerings:

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus

33% off
Norton
Kaspersky
Trend Micro
Webroot

Furthermore, don’t forget that paid apps often offer either a trial, or a money-back guarantee if you’re not happy within a certain period, meaning you can try before you buy, and see first-hand if the software is worth splashing out on.

Features

With free virus protection, you’ll only get a basic feature-set. These apps might only carry the core antivirus engine, and perhaps a couple of additional pillars of defense – but vendors reserve all the more heavyweight functions for their paid products for obvious reasons.

With premium versions, you’ll often get important additions like extra layers of anti-ransomware protection, or web protection with anti-phishing tech or perhaps a tailor-made secure browser. You’ll be even more secure with these kind of features backing you up online, which is great news for those who might be less confident about the web and all the potential dangers out there.

Premium features like parental controls can help keep kids safe

(Image credit: Google)

Similarly, because parental controls and the likes of social media monitoring tools are generally only in paid security apps, those with a family may well want to pay for such features in order to keep the kids safe when they’re online.

Adverts

Advertisements are a further key issue to consider. With free products, there will usually be some manner of advertising involved (although there are exceptions to the rule, they are few and far between). This might be ads for all kinds of things, or simple messages suggesting you upgrade to the premium version, but you will likely face pop-ups of some variety.

With a paid antivirus app, there’s none of this. So, another way of looking at this could be that with a free antivirus, you’re effectively paying for the product with another resource – your time (to dismiss adverts), rather than money. Granted, with most decent free apps you won’t spend much time dismissing adverts, as there shouldn’t be that many of them – but they can be a slight annoyance, even so.

Support

Another major difference between paid and free products is that with a premium antivirus, you get a fully rounded technical support package. That often means 24/7 support allowing you to talk to human agents – via the phone, or live chat online – which can be a really useful facility for troubleshooting.

Indeed, some security companies even offer additional benefits such as Norton’s virus protection promise, whereby if a paying user’s system is infected by malware, they get a guarantee that one of the company’s experts will remove it. If tech support can’t remedy the situation, the cost of the customer’s subscription is refunded.

Technical support could be a lifesaver if things go wrong

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Free virus protection won’t give you any guarantees, of course, and support is usually limited to simple FAQs, or forums where users can try and help each other out with varying levels of success. If your query is a thornier one, you may find you get no replies, and can’t find much out in any FAQ either, leaving you pretty much high and dry, perhaps speculatively Googling for an answer.

The answer to this question does, of course, depend on your exact needs. Broadly speaking, though, paid antivirus edges it because of the extra features on offer – many of which are very useful, particularly to computing novices – plus better support, and lack of any pesky ads.

That said, a free app is a perfectly viable option for robust core protection of your PC, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with going this route for those who want to save some money, and are perhaps more confident about avoiding online dangers.

  • Read more: How to choose the best antivirus for you
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Antivirus

Is paid antivirus really worth it?

Paid, premium antivirus apps are those security products that cost money to purchase – as opposed to the wealth of free antivirus apps out there, which won’t extract a single coin from your wallet.But is it really worth paying for antivirus software? That’s what we’re going to discuss here, examining the hidden costs of freebie…

Paid, premium antivirus apps are those security products that cost money to purchase – as opposed to the wealth of free antivirus apps out there, which won’t extract a single coin from your wallet.

But is it really worth paying for antivirus software? That’s what we’re going to discuss here, examining the hidden costs of freebie antivirus software, and the other points in favor of a paid antivirus app.

  • Our definitive list of today’s best antivirus software
  • Looking for even more protection? Grab the best VPN
  • See why we rate Bitdefender so highly in our testing

Free but basic

free antivirus from a reputable company, though, you’ll be fine, and these apps will provide robust enough protection for your device(s) on a basic level, at no cost (or no financial cost, anyway – more on that later).

The key word here, of course, is ‘basic’ – because paid apps offer a lot above and beyond the remit of a freebie. Those additional features vary considerably depending on which product range you’re looking at, but there are often a lot of valuable extras provided with premium antivirus apps.

Far greater functionality

Those extras might include bonuses like protection for your backups (Bitdefender’s paid Mac antivirus app includes Time Machine protection, for example), and often measures to keep you safe on the web, such as a secure browser which you can use to do your online banking or other sensitive tasks.

Paid apps often provide the likes of anti-spam filters to keep your email inbox free of nonsense or malicious messages, and anti-phishing protection to keep you safe on the web, and these can be key elements when it comes to staying secure online.

Indeed, these kind of layers of defense can be even more vital for less tech-savvy users, who may not be able to guard themselves against some of the well-constructed phishing threats around, or other scams built around social engineering. These vulnerable users will especially benefit from the extra security offered by a paid app.

Those with families will also find that premium antivirus offerings usually integrate some manner of parental controls, and these will be very useful for helping to keep the kids safe online.

Panda Antivirus with bundled VPN

(Image credit: Panda)

Premium antivirus software sometimes offers even tighter levels of security still by incorporating a VPN. The top-end security suites from some vendors who also run a VPN service bundle the latter, and if you need the extra encrypted privacy and security that a VPN can give you online, these can be a great choice in terms of value for money.

If you really want to feel super-secure online, only a paid antivirus can deliver on this front.

Better support

Another factor to bear in mind when it comes to paid antivirus is that you will get better tech support, with the likes of helplines you can call, or live chat to solve any problems you might encounter. Generally speaking, none of those options are provided by a free antivirus – indeed, with the latter, you’ll likely get little to no support, save for some FAQs or a web knowledgebase perhaps.

What you will get with many free antivirus products is adverts which continually urge you to upgrade to the paid version, or indeed just ads in general – these products have to eke out a living in some way, of course. Naturally, any software you pay for won’t have adverts popping up and annoying you (or shouldn’t, anyway, if you buy from a reputable vendor).

Finally, it’s worth considering that some paid antivirus apps really aren’t all that expensive, particularly if you’re willing to subscribe for a longer term. When you actually break down the cost of some of those multi-year contracts to work out what you’re paying monthly, it’s not very much for a high level of protection.

Is paid antivirus really worth it?

On balance, paying for an antivirus makes sense on a number of levels. As we’ve underlined here, those who aren’t very tech-savvy or confident can stay much safer online with premium antivirus software (and kids can as well, thanks to additional features like parental controls). And remember that it doesn’t have to be that expensive to get paid antivirus protection, with even the best proponents out there starting with prices of less than $2 per month. That said, a good free app is still a perfectly viable route to take for those who can live with just the basics.

  • Read more: How to choose the best antivirus for you
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Do I really need antivirus for Mac?

Traditionally, the Mac has been regarded as a safe and secure haven compared to other desktop platforms – particularly Windows – and a common line of thinking has been that Apple computers don’t need antivirus defenses, because security is tight enough anyway, and threats are relatively scarce.But is that still true today? The latter point…

Traditionally, the Mac has been regarded as a safe and secure haven compared to other desktop platforms – particularly Windows – and a common line of thinking has been that Apple computers don’t need antivirus defenses, because security is tight enough anyway, and threats are relatively scarce.

But is that still true today? The latter point most certainly isn’t…

  • Our definitive list of today’s Mac antivirus software
  • Looking for even more protection? Grab the best VPN
  • See why we rate Bitdefender so highly in our testing

Growing threat level

more threats were found per endpoint (ie Mac) than with Windows machines.

If any statistic will make a Mac user sit up and take notice on the security front, it’s the revelation that there were 11 threats per endpoint compared to 5.8 with Windows – in other words, nearly double the amount with Apple machines.

That stark headline isn’t the full story, though. The big caveat here is that much more malware is still aimed at Windows PCs, with the Mac getting hit more with adware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), or ‘malware light’ as Malwarebytes dubs it. These kind of efforts aren’t nearly as serious or dangerous as the full-fat malware out there, but they can certainly be unpleasant in at least some cases, hijacking your browser, changing your default search engine or perhaps serving up sponsored results to the benefit of the author.

Of course, we must also bear in mind that this is just a single report, and it’s unwise to put too much emphasis on any one source in isolation. However, we’ve also seen a regular drip of articles about Mac malware hitting the headlines. Witness, for example, the recent revelation of a new strain of Mac ransomware (the first such sighting in some four years).

So given this, and the apparent increase in Mac threats – which is doubtless tied into Apple’s machines becoming more popular – anyone who has been following all this will likely have become more concerned about Mac security, and rightly so.

Apple keeps improving macOS security

(Image credit: Shutterstock; Apple)

But isn’t my Mac secure by design anyway?

Despite these growing dangers, you may well ask: but isn’t my Mac secure by design anyway?

It is true that macOS is built to be seriously secure, and Apple implements a number of measures within the operating system to that end. The firm incorporates features such as XProtect antivirus protection, and the likes of Gatekeeper, insisting that all software is digitally signed (or notarized, in other words, checked by Apple for issues or malicious code). All this helps protect those downloading software from outside of the official App Store.

There’s no doubting that the level of security provided by Apple is sterling stuff – but nonetheless, these systems aren’t fool-proof, and we have seen ways to get around Gatekeeper in the past, or attempts to trick users and foil this built-in security. Vulnerabilities at a hardware level can be another dangerous potential attack vector against Mac systems, too, as we’ve seen in the past with the likes of ZombieLoad.

Besides, as Malwarebytes points out, Apple’s integrated security measures aren’t so great about picking up the ‘malware light’ efforts we mentioned above. As the security company notes: “macOS’ built-in security systems have not cracked down on adware and PUPs to the same degree that they have malware, leaving the door open for these borderline programs to infiltrate.”

And as we’ve noted, those ‘borderline’ apps may not wreak havoc on your system like a traditional piece of malware, but you still don’t want those kind of things hanging around on your Mac.

Do I really need antivirus for Mac?

When you weigh ever

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