Why Do I Need Antivirus Software Anyway?
The simple answer is that a computer that lacks any form of protection is vulnerable. Very vulnerable.
There are already thousands of different pieces of malware out there in cyberspace and every year hundreds more are written.
Malware is a term that covers a range of nasty pieces of code that have been designed to mess with your computer or steal from you, including spyware, Trojans, viruses and worms.
A key point to remember here is that most malware is designed such that it should remain hidden from users who aren’t proactively looking for it. Hence you could well have an infected computer right now without even realising it. That in itself is a good reason for protecting your computer with an antivirus program.
What Problems Can Viruses And Other Malware Cause?
There used to be a time when viruses were fairly predictable – they were transferred via floppy disk or email and messed with the MBR (master boot record) on your computer, typically making it unusable. Times have changed though and so have viruses.
They can now be distributed via USB drives, flash memory, infected web sites, downloaded cough ‘applications’ and all manner of other methods. The destruction they cause has changed too, varying from silly messages at one of the scale to full-blown identity theft at the other.
A good antivirus program will stop malware in it’s tracks though, saving you the time, trouble and possible expense of reformating your hard drive or all manner of other potential problems.
Another type of malware, known as spyware or adware, can embed itself within your web browser, watching what you do and where you go on the internet. Not only does this slow your computer down, it also reports your every move back to the author, leading to an increase in the amount of advertisements you see on the Internet. Or worse.
Such threats get worse each week and the number of them continues to multiply. If you don’t get yourself protected then there is every chance you will get infected sometime, somehow.
The Bad Guys
The ‘bad guys’ come in all shapes and sizes these days. Hacking, cracking and virus writing is no longer a pastime for pubescent loners, though there is still an element of that today.
It is much more likely that any malware on your computer has come from a crime syndicate – dedicated teams of criminals now work together to steal identities, commit fraud, break into systems and steal email accounts for their spamming activities.
Such people have talent, organisation and money and tend to be one step ahead of the security industry at all times. If you don’t have any security on your PC then do you really stand a chance?
What Characteristics Should I Be Looking For In Antivirus Software?
Hopefully by now you have come to the conclusion that you need some sort of antivirus protection (unless, of course, you are a security guy who knows he doesn’t need any :D).
Thats good but you need to know that not all antivirus programs are created equally – there are good ones, poor ones and even fakes!
So, how do you decide which is the best antivirus program for you?
I guess a lot of that will depend upon your age, computer knowledge and the use(s) to which you put your computer. In general, however, you will want to be considering the following points –
Ease Of Use
This is probably the number one point for many potential users or purchasers of antivirus software.
If you can’t work out how to use the program then you will be the weak link in your system’s security defences. It doesn’t matter how good an antivirus program is if the user interface sucks does it?!? Not only that, but the program should be easy to install too and non-intimidating for a beginner.
For most people a good antivirus program is the sort you install once, set up once and then forget about (BitDefender is a good choice here with their ‘AutoPilot’). If its any more complicated than that then there is every chance you won’t get the full benefits from it.
Effective At What Its Supposed To Do
If an antivirus program doesn’t detect malware and deal with it then it isn’t worth having in the first place.
You need realtime scanning, frequently updated virus definitions and the ability to protect you all of the time. Additionally, you are going to want all of that to take place at speed and in the background so it doesn’t impact on any other work you are doing on your computer.
If you are going to spend your hard-earned money on an antivirus program then you want one that does what it says on the tin and jolly well protects you all of the time.
Instant And Effective Isolation And Cleaning
A good quality antivirus program will identify itself through keeping you safe by quickly responding to any and all threats.
If it spots something suspicious you want it to isolate it, even if the code it detects hasn’t yet been reported. This ability is critical in protecting you from becoming an early casualty of a Zero Day attack.
Clear And Concise Communication
You will want your antivirus program to let you know what is going on all of the time without getting in the way of your day to day tasks.
That means it should run in the background but also that it should promptly report anything that is of interest, such as scan results, infections discovered and any action it has taken on your behalf.
Many people are looking for features in excess of pure antivirus protection.
Many internet security suites offer this rounded protection but it is becoming far more common for antivirus programs to offer additional services too and so they may offer a much more cost-effective security solution, depending upon your needs.
Additional features that you may want to look out for include –
- rootkit detection
- script blocking
- parental controls
- email screening
- social network protection
- anti-keylogging features
- device anti-theft
You will of course have to factor each of those, and their worth to you, when considering whether any given antivirus program is worth the asking price.
Helpful And Easily Understood Documentation And Support
The usefulness of an antivirus program could be limited by your knowledge of how to use it. Clear documentation will help with installation and basic setup.
If your knowledge of computers and software is very limited then you may want to factor email or telephone support into your buying decision as both may be invaluable to you.
Hopefully the above article will have helped you gain an insight in how to choose the best antivirus program for your needs.
If it hasn’t then please feel free to ask any questions you have via the comment form below and do feel free to add in any other considerations I may have overlooked.