The Ultimate Guide to Antivirus Software

Any computer whether it’s attached to the internet or not, is vulnerable to attacks from malware, so there will always be a need for antivirus software

Antivirus software is one or a set of programs that are used to prevent, find, and disable software viruses and other harmful software such as worms, trojans, adware and more.

Historically it has always been best practice to have antivirus software on your computer or on your mobile device, the reason being that if you don’t, you are leaving yourself open for a potential virus attack. However, over the last few years operating systems on laptops and home computers has meant their security has increased. So, what exactly is antivirus software and is it worth paying extra for?

 

antivirus protection

 

What Does Antivirus Software Do?

Antivirus software is designed to identify, isolate, and remove malicious programs and code that might have been installed onto your system. This effectively stops viruses from being able to perform their functions and keeps your system safe.

 

What Does a Virus on a Computer Do?

Viruses are computer codes that are able to replicate themselves and then attach themselves to an operating systems main code. Once established a virus will execute their function which can include, encrypting important data, siphoning information, destroying operating systems, spying and or collecting personal information.

 

How Does Antivirus Software Work?

Antivirus software uses a set of predetermined attributes of code to flag issues within a system, where these it will also scan for malicious code executions that are not a part of the ‘normal’ operating system. Antivirus software performs 3 main functions:

  • Identifying malicious codes in the system
  • Removing or destroying malicious codes
  • Protecting a system from infection of malicious code

What Does Antivirus Software Scan For?

Antivirus software doesn’t just simply scan for viruses, it offers a general protection for your device from many different components and coding that might affect the operating system.

 

1.      Malware

Malware is generally the overall term used for different types of cyber threats such as ransomware, adware, and spyware. Malware is programmed to access a device, without consent or awareness, and can be used to steal someone’s data, identity or to just mess with the system.  Two terms often used for how malware will enter a system are computer worms or a trojan virus. Computer worms are programs which will duplicate themselves within a system in order to disable and destroy it whereas a Trojan virus is malware that describes itself as other software to enter the system and operates in same way as it’s namesake, the Trojan horse.

  • Ransomware

A type of malware that will disable or block a device from its user, where a hacker will hijack the device and hold it ransom until they are paid off.

 

  • Adware

Another type of malware that hides deep in the systems coding and monitors online buying behaviour to show the user advertisements.

 

  • Spyware

The last type of malware, Spyware infiltrates a device and collects private information on the individual like their bank details, credit card information and passwords.

 

2.      Scams

Mostly commonly recognised as junk mail, scams can appear in many forms such as texts, apps, online messages, emails and even websites. We have all had the pop up that we have won a free phone but this is most likely, if not definitely, a scam. There are two common forms of scams:

 

  • Phishing

Phishing is a type of email fraud where the email contains attachments to websites or downloads that are dangerous and often contains some sort of malware.

 

  • Pharming

Pharming is where users are brought to fake websites without them clicking anything because malicious code has been inserted into the computer.

 

3.      Spoofing

This when someone pretends to be to be someone else to gain access to their systems and/or steal information. This can be done through email, websites, and various other methods.

 

4.      Remote Access Attacks

These are malicious actions that attack a computer or a network of computers to view and steal data, introduce malware and virus to destroy the system.

 

5.      Viruses

Viruses are often the most common term to encompass anything wrong with a device, however viruses are actually any malicious code or program that attaches to files and programs which in turn corrupts the data and harms the file or program.

 

Why Should I Use Antivirus Software?

Any computer, whether it’s attached to the internet or not, is vulnerable to attack from malware. So there will always be a need for antivirus software. Especially if you are now working from home and accessing sensitive or confidential information. Ultimately, the need for your PC to be protected has increased.

The antivirus software will detect any potential virus and then works out how to remove it. The good thing about the software is it will do this before the virus has a chance to harm your computer. Your antivirus software may be neutralising potential threats multiple times a day, without you even knowing it. A virus doesn’t just pose a threat to you, if it infects your system and networks, you could potentially spread it to your works network and that of your friend and family. So, it’s best to get comprehensive antivirus software.

 

Arguments Against Antivirus Software

There really aren’t any arguments against using antivirus software, you should still be purchasing and running protection software. Some people will argue that if you are careful when online, only visiting legitimate websites, then there is no need to protect yourself. You also might hear complaints that antivirus software slows down your system, however if you choose a reputable software, you shouldn’t encounter these issues. Plus, a virus infecting your computer is going to slow it down way more and cause more damage than the protection software will.

 

Antivirus Software for Mac

If you are an Apple user, there is the common thought that it is impossible to get a virus on an Apple as they have built in protection and is often a major selling point of the product, however, there is a limit to their effectiveness and you should still consider installing anti-virus software.

Mac Operating Systems or MacOS and Apple Mac hardware are designed with their own antivirus protection so to offer protection against attack. The Apple M1 Chip ensures that all data on an Apple device is encrypted to protect it and when paired with the FileVault 2, ensures that you have some sort of protection against malware and other cyber threats.

Their XProtect detection tool is built into the MacOS system and is kept up to date with the latest virus signals and tell-tale signs that something is actually malicious. This system will automatically notify you and automatically move the file to the bin.

The Malware Remove Tool picks up any malware that the XProtect might have missed and gets rid of the files that are malicious.

However, although Apple’s security hardware and software is very efficient, they have been known to be unable to detect dormant viruses sitting on the hard drive and of course anti-virus software is more than just protection against malware, adding extra security is only going to make a device more secure and safe to use.

 

Antivirus Software for Windows

If your Windows device has Windows 10 then it also has built in anti-virus protection called Microsoft Defender Antivirus that continually scans for malware, viruses, and security threats to keep your system safe. The status icons indicate the level of safety on a device:

 

Green indicating no security threats and no actions are recommended.

Amber indicates that the software has a security recommendation for you.

Red is to warn you that something needs immediate attention and is posing a security threat.

 

Although, the Microsoft Defender Antivirus holds a lot of protection, issues such as Phishing and some forms of malware still pose a threat to the system’s security and therefore you should still consider installing instead some sort of higher security software. When another antivirus software is installed into the operating system, the Microsoft Defender Antivirus automatically deactivates and will reactive once the software has been uninstalled.

 

warning on a laptop from a antivirus

 

What’s the Best Antivirus Software?

1.    Bitdefender Total Security

You might not have heard of Bitdefender, but as of 2021 it’s being called the best antivirus software providers on the market. With watertight security tools as well as other excellent security features, it has the benefit of being easy to install and use and if money is a priority, this package is great value for money.

  • Works with all operating systems: Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS.
  • Device optimizer
  • Privacy firewall
  • Parental control
  • Protection against malware, spyware, and adware
  • Multi-layer ransomware protection

You can have up to 5 devices on a year subscription for £69.99 through the Bitdefender website.

 

2.    Norton

It would be very surprising if you hadn’t heard of Norton when it comes to antivirus software, it’s the biggest name out there and for good reason. With anti-ransomware, malicious URL filtering and password manager making up just some of the features that make Norton a great software to pick. You can also have a 30 day free trial which is great if you want to try before you buy.

  • Real time threat detection
  • Secure VPN
  • Smart firewall (PC and Mac)
  • Password manager
  • PC cloud backup
  • SafeCam (PC)
  • 100% virus protection promise

For a single device Norton 360 Standard is £24.99 for a year subscription or on Norton 360 Deluxe covers up to 5 devices and has extras such as parental controls and dark web monitoring for £34.99 for a year subscription. Both plans are available through the Norton website.

 

3.    Avast Premium Security

A very popular name that is emerging in cyber security, Avast is one of the largest security companies on the world using next gen tech to stop cyber threats. Offering a vast range of security features at a very competitive price, and what’s better is that they have a restricted free version with all the most important features and you can actually trial the paid versions for 30 days free!

  • Virus and malware blocking
  • WiFi security scans
  • Password secure
  • Ransomware protection
  • Advanced firewall protection
  • Phishing protection
  • Webcam spying block
  • Permanent sensitive file shred

For a single device it’s £34.99 for the first year or £39.99 for 10 devices. Both deals can be found on the Avast website.

 

Free Antivirus Software

Free antivirus software is often very basic and offers some protection against the biggest cyber threats, however it can be limited to what is offers you. Depending on your operating system is and what built in protection you will need will determine which antivirus software you choose.

 

The Best Free Antivirus Software for 2021: Avira

A super simple and easy bit of software that works on both Mac and PC, Avira offers free basic protection against the most common cyber threats. With protection against viruses, active virus scanning and VPN software your device will be protected against most security issues. However, more advanced features such as phishing protection aren’t included in this free version.

Find out how to download it for your device here.

 

Antivirus Software FAQs

Ultimately the software’s purpose is to prevent, scan, detect and discard security threats from a device.

No. Unfortunately the threat is larger than ever and without any protection you leave yourself open to attack. MacOS and Windows usually have built in antivirus software, so if you do not install anything further, we strong suggest keeping these up to date and active.

Like any software, antivirus can slow down your computer due to the multiple CPU cycles that it needs to complete to keep the computer protected. With that being said, modern computers have the capability to have multiple programs running at once and with the right software you shouldn’t see too much of an impact.