Our personal devices such as desktops, laptops, mobile phones, etc., are all carrying tons of personal information about us, and in most cases, we do not want this information to fall into anyone’s hands. Unfortunately, with the growing popularity of the internet, this is becoming harder and harder to do. It seems like every website you visit (but not VPN Surf) is trying to collect as much personal information about you as possible, but this is a discussion for another time.
What is definitely more concerning for the average internet user is the copious amount of malware being spread on the internet. Countless types of malicious software are present on the web and just as many ways of spreading it. Some will gain access to your personal data on the device, while others can lock you out from accessing certain files or even using the device to its full functionality (such as ransomware). There have even been cases of viruses that destroyed the actual hardware of personal computers by making them overheat and disabling the safety mechanisms that prevented thermal damage to the components.
Most modern antivirus utilities can easily handle Trojans, rootkits, spyware, adware, ransomware, and more to many people's great relief. We have picked several of these software that we believe should take care of nearly any malware problem you might have.
However, before getting to the comparison, let’s better understand what antivirus software is exactly.
What’s an Antivirus?
Antivirus software is one of the things that keeps your computer or mobile phone safe from malware and cybercriminals. It typically does so by inspecting your device's network traffic – be it web pages, files, or applications.
The software also regularly scans the files and programs on your device for malicious activity. It detects known threats and suspicious activity of all the programs and flags those which seem questionable. The flagged programs or behaviours are then promptly blocked or removed from the computer.
What Does an Antivirus Protect From?
Hackers are constantly trying to gain access to or damage your computer or mobile device without your knowledge. That is why we believe it is important to know what types of malicious software are out there and which ones your antivirus protects.
Here are some examples of malicious software that any respectable antivirus should be able to protect you from:
- Ransomware: blocks access to sensitive files in order to extort money from the user
- Spyware: gains access to and collects users’ sensitive information
- Worms: inject malicious code into the user’s system and attempts to spread it to other users on the network or via the internet
- Trojan: seemingly an innocent program that promises one thing but instead injects malicious code into your desktop
- Adware: simple ads that pop up annoyingly when attempting to use the computer; sometimes nearly impossible to remove manually
Antivirus Software Comparison:
Now that you know a bit more about what antiviruses are, how they work, and what to expect from them, we have compiled a list of the ones we believe offer the widest range of tools and best security measures. These are not ranked and thus are not in any specific order. However, we think they are all potentially good choices for your systems’ security. These summaries are in no way full reviews of said tools but only highlight the distinctive features between the antiviruses.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2020
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2020 is a full security suite that offers essential real-time protection against viruses and ransomware as well as prevents phishing and online fraud when shopping and browsing. In addition, it has earned outstanding test results in independent lab tests, earning 6 out of 6 possible points in all three categories in tests performed by the reputable AV-Test Institute.
The suite also offers multilayer ransomware protection. Bitdefender’s Safe Files feature prevents all unauthorized modification of files in folders within which users commonly store their files (such as Documents, Pictures, Videos, Downloads, etc.). Of course, you can always add new directories to the ‘protected folders’ list.
Although uncommonly found bundled with antiviruses, password management is often found in security suites such as Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. Its Wallet offers storing passwords, personal information, and credit card details for use on websites. It also requires a strong master password which is separate from your Bitdefender Central password.
Overall, this suite is an excellent choice for protecting your devices with a vast collection of features that put many other security suits to shame.
This name has been heard by just about any PC user out there. Kaspersky has been around seemingly forever and only improved over time. It has earned the top or nearly the top score in just about any independent antivirus test. Although the core antivirus protection is the same as Kaspersky’s free antivirus version, the paid edition also includes a useful vulnerability scan and full access to tech support in case anything goes wrong.
Kaspersky offers an interesting feature that is quite unusual for antivirus software. It has a built-in on-screen keyboard. Its purpose is to protect the entry of your sensitive information against any keylogger, even a hardware one.
Since phishing sites do not host malware, most phishing protection relies upon blacklists of sites. A problem arises, however, when a phishing site is too new to have been blacklisted. In these cases, Kaspersky shines as it uses heuristic detection, which offers 100 percent protection, tying only with McAfee AntiVirus Plus in independent tests.
The vulnerability scan offered with the full version of Kaspersky Anti-Virus is probably the most useful feature within this package. It scans for software vulnerabilities (i.e., missing security patches) in the operating system, browsers, and other popular apps.
Although this antivirus is pretty bare-bone, you can opt-in for either Kaspersky Internet Security or even Kaspersky Total Security if you wish to get more features.
ESET NOD32 Antivirus
Another quite recognizable name, ESET NOD32 Antivirus, goes above and beyond with its bonus features. One such feature is a UEFI scanner that scans your PC’s firmware for malware. In addition, ESET’s standalone antivirus also offers a Host Intrusion Protection System (HIPS) to help block exploits.
Although being mainly known for being light on computer resources and blocking popups and updates when a program is running in full-screen mode, NOD32 also receives quite good scores from independent antivirus tests. Unlike previously mentioned software, the results are not perfect/near perfect but are still very good, being able to land in the top 3.
A truly outstanding feature of the ESET NOD32 Antivirus is its elaborate Device Control feature. Despite being more suitable for business settings than consumer use, only a few other security suites are offered. While this feature is active, you can prevent the use of a wide variety of device types and make exceptions for trusted devices. In addition, you can create rules for a variety of devices, such as card readers, Bluetooth devices, and external drives.
Generally, this antivirus software is best suited for people who take up tech and computers as a hobby since the Device Control system is one of the most comprehensive ones out there; however, it does require you to have a decent knowledge of computers to use.
McAfee provides multiple different versions of their antivirus solutions; however, today, we would like to focus on McAfee LifeSave as it is quite a unique opportunity for users with a lot of devices that need protection. It protects an unlimited number of devices for only $39.99 (this price applies for the first year only, after it would be $119.99). This offer includes Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices. This is huge, as most competitors only provide licenses for 1, 3, 5, or 10 devices.
With such an offer, however, there are also certain trade-offs to think about. For example, researchers found McAfee to have poor handling of real-world ransomware on Windows. According to multiple tests, several samples have passed all McAfee protection layers, including its dedicated Ransom Guard.
Although this is a serious Windows device security hit, finding another antivirus that offers unlimited cross-platform licenses is nearly impossible. Other than this slip-up, the software offers a plethora of features for Windows protection, more than most other security suites.
Phishing protection, however, is another strong suit of McAfee LifeSave. It managed quite impressive 99 percent protection, tying with Bitdefender. Only Kaspersky was able to score a perfect 100 percent on this test.
Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus
This antivirus software has a quite unique way of detecting and removing malware. While other antiviruses constantly expand their databases to catch every new attack instantly, Webroot’s antivirus keeps watch of unknown programs and their behaviors until the brain in the cloud decides whether the program is malware or not.
If the program is believed to be a PUP, the local application gets rid of the program and reverses all of the actions executed. The method is unusual but very effective as seen from independent testing.
Due to the way Webroot detects and removes viruses, the client itself does not take up a lot of space; the program only uses 15 Mb from your storage, perfect if you are close to maxing out your drives. Along with requiring low storage space, it also takes a much shorter time to scan your computer.
According to the information on their site, it takes just 20 seconds on average to check your PC due to it being completely cloud-based. This, however, should be taken with a grain of salt as we were unable to find any independent tests that verify this exact number.
Norton AntiVirus Plus
Last but definitely not least is Norton AntiVirus Plus. Originally released in 1991, this name is also quite well known. As can be implied from the name, it offers advanced antivirus protection and a lot more. Among other things, it includes a full-blown firewall, spam filtering, and hosted online backups. The latest edition also has online banking protection, script control, and Wi-Fi security.
Norton is considered to be one of the top-performing antivirus software along with Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and ESET, with independent test results reflecting exactly that. In almost any test, Norton scores within the top 3, and if not, within the top 5.
Another nice plus you get with this version of the antivirus is 2GB of secure online storage, which is not really that much but still probably enough to back up your most essential files. Sadly, the option to purchase more online storage separately is no longer available, so if you wish for more storage, you must upgrade to a better plan. Or use a different secure online storage service.
Conclusion - Do not forget a VPN
Some antivirus services we mentioned include a VPN, and some don’t. Nevertheless, their versions of VPN are designed with one purpose in mind: security. That is not a bad thing; however, having tunnel vision when designing a product does not produce the best possible results.
If you are a returning reader from our other VPN-related blogs, you would know that a good VPN is secure and fast, can support a long-lasting, uninterrupted connection to the server, and provides you with a wide variety of locations to choose from.
Unlike the VPNs bundled with antivirus packages, VPN Surf provides all that and much more. So whenever you’re using antivirus and need a VPN, start with VPN Surf for enhanced security and a better experience.
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