Using a PC, laptop, or phone without antivirus software is practically begging to get your device infected with malware, spyware, or ransomware. This kind of tool is the first line of defense between you and malicious programs. And without it, you’re like a sitting duck.
But not all antivirus software is made equal. Some tools are good at what they do. Some others are so-so or even mediocre – and can proactively put your data in danger. But if you’re a cybersecurity specialist, how can you tell which is which?
Look out for these six signs that mark good antivirus software. If you can check everything off this list, this tool will protect you at every step of the way, whether you need to pay for essay at EssayPro, stream a movie, or download a bunch of files. And you won’t even notice how much it works to protect you!
Of course, first of all, you’ll want your antivirus software to be good at what it’s supposed to do: detect malicious programs. But how do you know if it is?
You’ll want to look at what’s known as the detection and protection rates. Independent organizations like AV-Comparatives run monthly tests on dozens of tools to determine them. Take your shortlist and see what those tests have to say about their efficiency.
When you look at the results of those tests, keep three things in mind, however:
The rate of false alarms should be low, too – ideally, zero or close to zero;
The offline detection rate shouldn’t differ that much from the online one;
The detection and protection rates should be above 95%.
It Comes with Real-Time Protection
Way back when all that antivirus software did was scan the files on your machine from time to time. But now, those scheduled scans aren’t enough.
Today, any good antivirus software has to include real-time protection. Why? It’s essential for protecting you while you’re browsing online. And your device probably spends 95% of the time connected to the internet.
It’ll prevent potentially dangerous scripts from getting executed on your device;
It’ll stop you from visiting websites known to spread viruses and malicious programs;
It’ll protect you from spyware and network attacks.
On top of that, real-time protection means the antivirus software continuously analyzes all programs and processes that are running or getting launched. If a piece of software is deemed suspicious, the antivirus software with real-time protection will prevent it from getting executed.
It Can Handle Spyware & Ransomware
Viruses are one thing, but spyware and ransomware are no less dangerous than them. Both types of these malicious programs can come in many forms. And your antivirus should be able to detect them and prevent them from doing any damage.
Spyware is a piece of software that, as the name suggests, spies on you. It can be a keylogger that records all of your keystrokes – including login credentials and credit card details you may enter online. It can also be a script that actively mines the personal data available on your device, including your sensitive files.
Ransomware made the news multiple times, so you must’ve heard of it. It encrypts all of the data on your device. And to gain back access to it, you need to pay ransom to the hacker – usually in cryptocurrency.
To protect you from it, your antivirus software should not only be able to detect it. It should also have built-in controlled folder access and ransomware data recovery features.
It’s Easy to Use & Tweak
If you’re not a cybersecurity student, you probably don’t want to dig through the settings for hours to set up your newly installed tool. Instead, you’d want to click several buttons and be done with it. You’d also want the settings to be easy to understand if you’re a cybersecurity specialist.
So, check how easy it is to get started with the tool. You can do it by reading or watching reviews, of course. Or, just install it on your device and see for yourself.
That said, a good antivirus tool should also let you get under the hood and tweak the settings as you see fit. It can be necessary if the software flags innocuous programs as suspicious, for example. It can also come in handy if you’ve modified your system in any substantial way, too.
It Doesn’t Require a Lot of System Resources
Using up a lot of system resources is, by far, the most annoying thing about antivirus software. If it does, you’ll discover your device slowing down or freezing when it performs scans – or worse, just as it’s running in the background.
There’s no particular metric you can check to understand if this or that tool will be too demanding on your system. The best way to do it, apart from reading reviews, is to take that antivirus software for a test drive. (Don’t worry: paid tools have a free trial you can use for that end.)
All of that is because different devices handle the same load differently. One antivirus program can work without you even noticing on a recent laptop. But if you have a 2015 laptop with just 4GB of RAM, it can slow it down so much that you won’t be able to browse the internet comfortably.
It Takes Your Privacy Seriously
Antivirus software has access to your most sensitive data – it needs that to protect you from threats. But that, however, can be a security risk of its own.
Take Avast as an example. In 2019, it came under fire after it was revealed that Avast was collecting and then selling user data to third parties. And even though Avast then closed its data collection operations, this scandal isn’t going to be forgotten any time soon.
So, do a bit of online research to see if the antivirus tool you’re considering has come under scrutiny for data collection and selling. Spoiler alert: free tools are more likely to have broken the trust of their users with this kind of fit.
Can Free Antivirus Software Be Good Enough?
That’s the question on many people’s minds. And the answer is, “it depends.” On what? On your needs, first and foremost.
If you need a barebone – but efficient – tool, Microsoft Defender, does its job well and comes at no extra cost for Windows users. Yes, you won’t have extra features like a VPN or a password manager. But you’ll be well-protected against all types of malware.
Other free antivirus tools, however, can come with security risks themselves. Like Avast, that can end up exploiting your trust and selling your personal data. So, not all free options are good ones.
The bottom line is if you also want to use (or are already using) a VPN, password manager, and cloud backups, paid software can offer you all of that under one plan. So, instead of several subscriptions, you can pay just one – and this bundle will cost you less in the long run.
To sum up, good antivirus software should meet the following six criteria:
Excellent malware detection and protection rates;
Real-time protection included;
Protection against spyware and ransomware included;
User-friendliness for beginners and customization for experienced users;
Light system resources use;
If it does, that’s a tool worth your trust. Install it, and you won’t have to worry about malicious programs disrupting your work, mining your data, or exerting ransom. And yes, it can turn out to be free of charge, too – but be careful with free software, nevertheless!