Do I need to pay for an antivirus program for my Windows computer?
It’s one of the most frequent questions I hear when someone learns about my expertise in cybersecurity. The confusion is totally understandable since there are so many different solutions available. Many new PCs come bundled with time-limited “free” starter editions of McAfee, Norton, Avast, etc., or they are installed with another program. Within a month or three, the software begins nagging you with ominous warnings about your PROTECTION TIME RUNNING OUT (!). Do you pay their subscription fee, or do you take the chance that your PC will be unprotected?
Good news! In the past, a third-party antivirus program was needed because Windows did not include any native protection. However, all Windows 8 & 10 PCs come with built-in (and free!) Windows Defender, which does a very good job at recognizing, blocking, and cleaning malware and viruses. In fact, Windows Defender catches 99.9% of “widespread and prevalent malware” along with 98.8% percent of zero-day attacks (1). These numbers are quite comparable when tested against paid products. Microsoft Security Essentials is the version for Windows 7, and it’s also free and fully-functional.
Now for the caution: Viruses and malware are no longer the greatest threat to information safety and privacy. The bad guys have moved on to more advanced schemes like ransomware and phishing in their attempts to extort or trick you into giving them money or valuable personal information. Antiviruses do not protect against trickery because antiviruses only scan for harmful software code.
To fully protect yourself against these newer non-virus threats, I recommend using an “anti-exploit” application. These newer products work in conjunction with your antivirus to provide more comprehensive protection by recognizing attempts to trick you, such as those found in attachments or in links to harmful websites. I prefer Malwarebytes‘ anti-exploit solution because it comes from a US-based company with excellent technical support if needed. They have a location in Clearwater, FL in fact! They offer a free version which is limited to on-demand scanning and cleaning only, so it does not protect against any threats while you use your PC. Their Premium product costs $39.99 per year and offers real-time protection against ransomware and web page-based attacks. It also augments Windows Defender for an even higher level of protection against viruses and malware.
All of this to say, you can certainly pay for the extra protection that more robust programs provide. But you may not need to spend any extra money as long as you practice safe-browsing, and maintain vigilance against opening attachments or clicking suspicious links.
If you’d like to learn more about protecting yourself against the latest threats to your online safety, please feel free to call 941-270-3005 or visit www.floridacoastit.com for a personal consultation.