Premium AV Suites – Do We Need Them?

Antivirus suites have been around for a long time. Many years ago Norton and McAfee were predominant, largely because of an agreement with manufacturers to include a free trial with new PCs. At that time these antivirus solutions, and particularly Norton, earned a reputation for being resource hogs, maybe somewhat unfairly. The truth of the matter is that Norton and McAfee have not been significantly slimmed down but rather hardware specs have improved enormously over the years to a point where modern PCs can now easily handle the demand on resources.

Many years ago I bought a brand new Dell machine which came with the very first XP version pre-installed along with a free Norton trial. I was on dialup at that time and every time I started that PC and connected to the Internet, the first half hour or so invariably involved me sitting back waiting for Norton definition updates to download and install. So frustrating.

Are The Additional Features Useful?

Modern antivirus vendors often promote their product’s additional features, such as banking protection, online shopping protection, etc., but are these extras useful? Generally speaking, no, it is more of a gimmick. Regardless of what the user is doing – banking, online shopping, downloading, opening links, etc., if malware is involved, any antivirus worth a damn should instantly spring into action and block that malware.

I would rather see these suites designed more along the lines of a “Total Security Suite” which would be comprised of an antivirus component, password manager, web protection, and sandboxing mechanism. Now, that would be a package I might consider purchasing.

My security setup includes all those components but in the form of individual free applications rather than all bundled together in a single suite:

  • Antivirus Solution: Microsoft Defender (built-in and free)
  • Password Manager: Bitwarden free edition
  • Web Protection: Malwarebytes Browser Guard (free browser extension)
  • Sandboxing (isolation): Sandboxie (free) and Windows Sandbox (built into Pro editions and free)

Windows And Security

Bearing in mind that Windows handles security quite well these days, no doubt the built-in antivirus has improved out of sight but general security has also improved over the years to the point where I do not believe premium antivirus suites are a necessity. Mind you, antivirus software is often a matter of personal preference and an area where users tend to stick with the devil they know.

As you can see from the following screenshot, results from the most recent laboratory tests show there is very little to pick between the top 10 antivirus solutions, with Microsoft Defender matching the premium offerings:

(Credit: AV-Test)

VPNs And Security

Before I finish up, I must include a mention of VPNs. Contrary to what they might claim, VPNs do not enhance security to any significant degree. In fact, they do little to enhance privacy or security. Sure, they hide the user’s real IP address, which helps to overcome any geo-blocking measures, but so much more data is still being revealed that it is ineffective at protecting users from advertising trackers and cross-site tracking. A far more effective solution is “fingerprinting protection” which should be a feature included with every browser but, unfortunately, is only included with the Brave browser.

As always, your thoughts are most welcome via the comments.

3 thoughts on “Premium AV Suites – Do We Need Them?”

  1. This sums it up right?

    You may have a favorite AV scanner, but can you honestly tell me, objectively, why it’s better than all the others? You might have a few good, small reasons like one has a cleaner, faster user interface (UI) or seems to have better detections. But how can you be sure? Do you know what each one is really doing under the hood? How do you know how good it is at detecting new viruses? How do you know how fast its detection signatures are updated? What about code quality and security bugs in the AV software itself? If you’re like most people, you simply prefer one AV product because it sucks the least.

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