A few weeks ago we published an article in which I mentioned two types of software that are almost certain to elicit a lively discussion, browsers, and antivirus. We covered browsers in that article – Which Is the Best Browser – and now I’m going to discuss antivirus software.
Antivirus: A little History
The name “antivirus” came about many years ago when the predominant threat was in the form of viruses. In the main, viruses are specifically designed to cause damage, they are more destructive than invasive. Of course, the threat landscape has evolved enormously since then with new and more invasive types of malware coming into play.
Malware is a portmanteau of the two words malicious software which encompasses all types of threats including viruses, rootkits, trojans, key loggers, ransomware, etc. Even though modern antivirus software protects against a wide range of threats, antivirus vendors have chosen to retain that old moniker when, in reality, they should be called antimalware.
In the early days, antivirus software relied largely on a database of definitions to protect against threats. This system is effective against known threats but not so much against zero-day threats (new threats). Fortunately, antivirus developers have since incorporated a very much improved heuristics (rules-based) component into their software which identifies malware based on specific behavioral traits and provides highly effective protection against zero-day threats.
With a combination of definition database and heuristics components, modern-day antivirus software provides an extremely effective defense against a wide variety of threats. So much so that cybercriminals have turned more and more to alternative methods, such as phishing email, as a more cost-effective method of scamming users out of their hard-earned money.
What Is The Best Protection
I’ve said this many times over but it bears repeating… the best protection is between the user’s ears. In other words, the savvy user who knows where and where not to click will always be safer than an inexperienced user who is what I call a “compulsive clicker”.
It’s a fact that 99.9% of all malware cannot be delivered without some sort of interaction from the user. I won’t go into all the usual rules here but, for a complete explanation, please read an earlier article: 10 Golden Rules To Defeat Scammers. One thing antivirus software cannot do is protect users from themselves.
Free vs Premium Antivirus
Test results from the professional AV-Test lab prove conclusively that the gap between free and premium antivirus software has closed to a point where they are pretty much on par. Even Microsoft Defender (formerly known as Windows Defender), which was once regarded as a joke, now ranks right up there with premium antivirus solutions. In fact, premium antivirus vendors are currently including various security-related components – such as a VPN and/or password managers – in an attempt to outdo their free competitors and woo users back into the fold.
Personally, I have never paid for antivirus software and, in all the years I’ve been working with Windows, I recall only one infection way back in the early XP days and have not experienced a single infection since. This serves to emphasize that users can vastly increase their safety from threats by knowing and following the golden rules.
Which Is The Best Antivirus
As is the case with browsers, the best antivirus is whichever does the best job for you, the user. While I don’t use nor need a premium antivirus solution, I will never criticize those who do; that is their choice. Similarly, while I believe that a savvy user could get away without any antivirus software at all, it’s not something I would ever recommend nor put into practice myself.
Most experienced users have already made up their minds as to which is the best antivirus for them but if I were to recommend an antivirus solution for the inexperienced user it would be either Microsoft Defender or Panda Free. The reason being neither requires any configuration or specialist knowledge on behalf of the user with both quietly doing their job in the background, and neither requires any sort of renewal or re-registration.
In the case of Microsoft Defender, definition updates are delivered via the normal Windows Update mechanism, and in the case of Panda Free, the definition database is maintained in the cloud, meaning the database is always up-to-date even when the user hasn’t started the PC for an extended period of time (= immediate full protection).
Your turn – which antivirus software do you use and why?