No matter what kind of device you’re using or what kind of operating system you’re running on it, you need antivirus software. The days when Mac and Linux operating systems were considered invulnerable to viruses and malware are over. And while Windows security has become more robust with the introduction of Microsoft Defender Antivirus, that’s not saying much – the protection Defender offers is minimal at best, and simply not comprehensive enough to protect your computer, tablet, or smartphone from many of the threats it faces.
You need a comprehensive antivirus solution. But which features are necessary, and which are just bells and whistles? Let’s take a look at some of the must-have features you need in an antivirus program.
High Scores from Antivirus Testing Labs
Independent antivirus testing labs, like AV-Test Institute, SE Labs, and AV Comparatives perform detailed tests of all the top antivirus programs and release reports on their efficacy. Just the fact that an antivirus program has been tested by an independent lab lends it some legitimacy. Of course, the higher the program is scored, the better you can expect it to perform.
Comprehensive Malware Protection
Malware, including viruses, Trojans, spyware, and ransomware, is perhaps the top threat to your devices and network. Yes, hackers can capitalize on the security weak spots in your home network to hack in and do things like take over control of your devices and even spy on you through your own security cameras. But most hackers are after your money and personal information, and malware is how they get their hands on it.
You need antivirus software that protects you from malicious websites, phishing emails, and dangerous downloads. A program with a sandboxing feature can protect you from accidentally downloading malicious apps, because it will run them first in a secure environment from which they can’t escape to wreak havoc on your files and system. Only when the program has been found to be safe is it allowed out of the sandbox to mingle with the rest of your data.
Firewalls are often a special bonus feature that most free antivirus programs won’t offer, but that you will find in many paid, premium programs. A firewall can keep malicious software from infecting your computer, because it basically stops and frisks any data that enters or leaves your home network. A firewall can also protect you from hackers by blocking any unwanted or unneeded traffic into your network or device.
Automatic, Real-Time Scanning and Malware Removal
You don’t want a product that forces you to perform a manual malware scan in order to detect and remove malware from your computer. You want one that’s automatically scanning traffic to and from your computer in real time, and ideally blocking any malware or malicious websites as they’re encountered. Such software won’t allow malware to get a foothold in your system.
You also don’t want a program that merely quarantines malware when detected, walling it off for future, manual perusal and deletion. Automatic sterilization is the way to go. That way you don’t have to worry so much about monitoring your antivirus program and manually deleting any quarantined viruses or other malware.
Support Across Platforms and for Multiple Devices
You’re going to be using your device to access and use a wide range of apps, and your antivirus software needs to be able to keep up. It needs to be able to detect when you’re about to navigate to a malicious website, and it also needs to be able to detect spam and phishing emails and protect you when you’re using social media, shopping, or doing your online banking.
Many households these days also look for antivirus software that will provide protection for multiple devices or security for the entire network. Think about it – unless you live alone, there are other people connecting to your home network with their own devices, and they may or may not be as careful as you are about avoiding phishing scams, malicious apps, and the like. You need comprehensive protection for every device on your network. You can even get programs that let you see who is connected and implement parental controls to protect your kids from inappropriate content.
Antivirus programs come with so many features these days, it can be hard to figure out what you really need and what you don’t. Make sure you’re getting the protection you need, so you can keep hackers and scammers from taking you to the cleaners.