How to choose an Anti-virus product

For the average person, who just wants to be safe on the internet, it can be very tricky to know what software you need to protect you properly.

There's an awful lot you need to be aware of just to have a chance of staying safe online.

If you follow this link you'll see how much I've already written about it and that it just the tip of the tip of the iceberg:

If you want trusted reviews of the software available then I suggest you look at the articles available through CHOICE Australia. You will need to pay a membership to read them all but it is worth the price on entry.

NOTE: CHOICE reviews all sorts of products including computers and technology. It is very easy to save the price of membership on your first CHOICE considered purchase.

The point being that I can't review them all and keep up to date with the ever changing playing field.

But I can offer you some tips and potential shortcuts to getting what you need and want.

Antivirus and security software is a bit like insurance, but probably not in the way you are thinking.

Most antirus products come as a free trial and/or provide an initial cheaply priced honeymoon period.

But when it comes time to renew, much like your car and house insurance, the premium will inevitably go up. The hope from the supplier is that the pain of change for you is greater than the increase in cost.

This is most evident on new computers where the top 3 antivirus vendors have their software preinstalled from the get-go.

Norton, Trend and McAfee are pretty much always found on a new computer and they are always one of the first things I remove from any new computer.

These three, and a lot of their peers, come with a lot of features that most people don't want and don't know how to use.

Maybe people should know how to use these features. Afterall they are designed to protect you.

The problem stems from the eternal pestering these and similar products do to get you to comply. If you choose NOT to use a feature they should accept that and just shut-up...but they don't.

The other big issue I have with "Security Suite" software is that it often makes very paranoid assumptions and replaces a lot of perfectly safe and valid built-in systems/software.

In my opinion, if it ain't broke, don't fix it (especially if you don't know what you are doing).

So you are paying for stuff you don't want AND stuff that you already have that is perfectly fine (as well as whatever is unique about a product).

Another thing to consider is how the minds of malicious folk work.

One of the primary objects of viral software is to infect as many machines as possible.

They know they are going to encounter antivirus products. So the best strategy is to create a virus that CAN'T be detected by the top three products.

So by using a widely distrubuted and top selling antivirus product you may well be actually exposing yourself to a greater risk.

That's my theory. I am not sure how many IT people share that theory.

The flipside of that is of course that the top selling products, in theory, should have better resources to create a better product...but do they always do that? I doubt it.

Your PC security is only as good as the weakest link.

I am often required to perform forced removal on security suites because something has stopped everything has stopped working.

If you use a best of breed strategy, and only use (and pay for) what you need and want, then when something breaks...only that thing has broken (caveats apply*).

For example, if your Norton is your Firewall, VPN, Antivirus, Password Saver, Browser Guard and so on...and it stops working...potentially all those things stop working.

If your subscription runs out so does your protection for all those things.

Whereas if your antivirus product fails...that's all that has failed. All those other things are still working.

What about free antivirus products I hear you ask...

Well, Windows 10 comes with "Windows Defender" built in...and that's free...but opinions vary as to whether it is good enough or not. Both sides of the argument exist so I have no real answer on that.

You should read this article if you want more than Windows Defender but still free antivirus protection:

..and here's the opposite side of the argument:

For me free software is almost universally annoying - too many pop-ups, too many prompts to upgrade and so on.

When software pops up too many messages you get numb to them. So when it pops up a proper alert there's a good chance you just tell it to p*** off and not properly deal with the problem...and then you get a virus anyway.

So what do you do David I hear you ask...

1) I Backup properly because I know that sooner or later something will go wrong (and that includes a virus getting past my defences). My cloud backup of choice is BackBlaze.

2) I use the paid/premium version of Malwarebytes on all my PCs and my Mac. It works WITH Windows Defender and so far (touch wood) hasn't let me down (see point 1 above).

3) I use NordVPN to protect me when I am online.

4) I use 1Password to manage all my logins and other private items.

5) I use Microsoft OneDrive's Secure Vault to keep files private in the cloud. I have a Microsoft 365 subscription which gives me 1TB of cloud storage.

...and more besides but that's the core of it.

*The caveats you need to know...

a) No software is perfect and...

b) ... all software has the potential to have weird ramifications on things that it just should not even be touching. Recently I had to remove the Firefox web browser because it killed my hwole computer...several times...and it is JUST a web browser!!!

c) Today's perfectly fine antivirus product can be rendered awful & non-functional tomorrow by an ill-considered and flawed update. So only ever buy 1 year of subscription to any product at a time. If it fails 4 months into a 3 year subscription the rest of your money could well be completely wasted.

d) If you ignore what your security software tells you, then you aren't protected. History is littered with viral infections resulting from experts being ignored. <ahem>

e) If your friend tells you Macs don't get viruses, then find yourself some honest friends. Here's an even handed article on the subject, but Google the phrase yourself and just see what I mean:

f) If a product you want to use comes as a free trial, then I encourgae you to use the free trial period to ensure you like it and that it doesn't kill your PC. Just ensure you are happy with the price and payment method before you install the software and start the trial. Sometimes products are just incompatible with what you have. See points a) and b) above.

g) Despite all this people are always your weakest link. Don't let other people use your computer. Even relatives, friends and other well meaning people can accidentally elevate your risk of exposure.

Have fun and remember to sanitize and socially distance ;-)


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