Remember those halcyon days when the worst threat computer users faced involved downloading a virus? In this age of malware, however, there’s a great deal more to be wary of. Online threats have evolved to encompass keystroke logging, bitcoin mining software, worms, and ransomware. Simply visiting an infected website might be sufficient to trigger malware, while the risks of phishing remain significant despite concerted efforts by ISPs to eliminate them.
The threat is real
Back in the good old days, the only devices considered to be at risk were Windows PCs. Linux was of little interest to cybercriminals, while Mac OS was frequently cited as being impervious to attack. Yet as 2018 draws to a close, the situation is very different. Mac vulnerabilities have been exposed like never before this year, while the proliferation of Android devices has seen criminals focusing on exploiting vulnerabilities in this Linux-based platform. And though 92 per cent of malware is still delivered in an email, file-less attacks mean infection may go unnoticed for long periods.
In today’s hostile environment, there’s a clear need for consumer antivirus software. Email providers and web hosting companies can only do so much to stop threats slipping through their servers and firewalls; end users have to accept their share of responsibility, too. The most effective approach involves installing consumer antivirus utilities onto primary web-enabled devices. You don’t need it on an Apple Watch (which is just as well, since no known malware currently targets it), but you’d certainly want antivirus software on an iPad or a MacBook, as well as a Windows PC. Any internet-enabled computer is at risk of being compromised or infected without antivirus software in place to protect it.
What should consumer antivirus software do?
There are several key functions performed by high-quality antivirus packages, whose name dates back to the era when malicious software was intended to cause damage rather than to generate financial rewards for its developers:
Performed on-demand and/or on-access, these check hard drives, web pages, and software for code signatures which match a database of known threats.
Millions of websites exist solely to burden visitors with malware, and sites known to be malicious in nature will automatically be blocked.
It’s easy to laugh at emails from a Nigerian prince asking for help accessing his fortune, but phishing emails can appear very authentic, and unfortunately are effective.
This occupies a grey area between criminality and legitimacy, discreetly logging every activity on a device before selling user data to advertising agencies.
Windows 10 users may be happy to rely on Windows Defender Security Center, which defies its American spelling by offering global protection against current threats. However, these are some of the other consumer antivirus packages worth considering:
Bitdefender Total Security. Platforms: Windows
Priced at £30, the 2019 version of Bitdefender’s flagship package has advanced features like ransomware remediation, alongside conventional threat protections. It has a VPN built in for geolocation-free web browsing, and it’ll even identify weak passwords or outdated software.
Norton Security Deluxe. Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Norton is so confident about their real-time protection (extending to emerging malware) that they offer a refund if their software is breached. Security Deluxe warns about potentially risky Android apps, providing holistic account control through a Windows PC.
McAfee AntiVirus Plus. Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Like Norton, McAfee can cover every device in the home. This blanket coverage is currently available for less than £25, though the Mac edition is less sophisticated than its PC and Android stablemates. Still, it excels at repelling phishing attacks.
Kaspersky Internet Security. Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android
Despite observing that Apple refuses to allow antivirus apps in its store, Mac protection sits alongside Kaspersky’s PC and Android cover. Russian origins shouldn’t alter Kaspersky’s expertise at blocking URLs and malware; it achieved perfect scores in independent tests.
AVG Internet Security. Platforms: Windows, Android
By dropping the year-specific titles of previous software, AVG claims that their latest internet Security Unlimited package will last a lifetime – with regular updates, of course. It sports a firewall and Android protection, alongside PC performance scanning and spam blocking.