It’s the beginning of a new year and with the rapid advancement of technology in the security segment launching PCs and other devices that have in-built antivirus software, the question is- Do you really need third-party software to protect your device?
I am nobody to answer that question for you but I will ask you this: Do you really need to add another lock on your door when leaving for a holiday (especially when you have some hard cash in your house)?
The answer is a resounding YES!
There’s nothing like the fact ‘all-safe’ and you can always do something to level up your device’s security because once a virus enters your device there’s a lot it could do.
And, with so many monstrous viruses lurking in the dark, an antivirus software enters as Captain Marvel does in Avengers: Endgame.
The days of PCs being referred to as ‘virus-ridden’ dismay are gone and there have come new threats in the cyber world that are way more nefarious, such as spyware, malware, phishing websites and ransomware.
And let’s not forget people who are on the Internet to make our lives worse- hackers, scammers, and ransomware attackers.
Antivirus softwares are like helmets that could add an extra layer of protection while you drive at the speed limit and follow all traffic protocols. While you are at it, taking in the scent of waffles and the distinct New year aroma, purchasing an antivirus software might be the best gift for yourself and your family.
However, you do not have to feel pressured to buy whatever they’re shilling, so just take a deep breath, read this post carefully and understand what you need out of the software, and then you may choose one AV software that best fits your requirement from the list of the 10 highly effective antivirus softwares for 2021.
But, wait? How about understanding how viruses get into our devices in the first place? That could help us not making the same recurring mistakes over and over, letting our PC wonder ‘when will he ever learn?’
7 Ways a PC or Mobile Device gets infected with Virus
Downloading something from a pirated site isn’t the only way your device can get affected by a notorious virus (as you see, there are about seven ways). A virus can enter your PC or mobile through a number of ways, all of which are listed below.
So, go through them carefully and make sure that you avoid making all the mistakes that usually get a virus to play a little ‘DAMAGE-DAMAGE’ on your device.
1. Accepting without reading
Ignorance is never bliss, and I understand you’re a busy person or whatever, but you aren’t Shazam who has to go save the world right after installing that software on his PC. I am sure even he checks what he is accepting before he flies off.
The point is, not reading what you’re accepting is one of the easiest ways a virus infects your device. For instance, you’ve been casually surfing the Internet when a window pops up saying ‘Your device is infected. Click here to resolve the issue’. Before getting the hang of what’s happening, overwhelmed with the ‘your device is infected’ thing, you click on the window, and then the window asks to download a plug-in or application that is a cure-all to remove the virus from your device.
Usually, the plug-in has an additional file that is already checked into when the Internet asks for your permission to download the file. Without having a look at what the additional file is about, you click download. Boom! There it goes!
This is why you should always read what is on your screen before taking an action that the website prompts you to take.
You got eyes, use them!
2. Opening spoof emails and email attachments
With so many email subscriptions from your favorite tour package company to your daily essentials store, opening emails are like a daily ritual. But, just to give you a headstart- do not open emails, you did not expect to be receiving. I mean, alright, that sounds kind of absurd, considering you do not really care to comtemplate which emails you were expecting and which not, and with so many subscriptions in your inbox, one little spoof mail can disguise itself perfectly.
Even a perfectly seasoned professional can be fooled by it!
What you can do to avoid getting your device infected with ransomware or virus planted into a spoof mail that was made to look legitimate is read the title and the content before opening or downloading an attachment from the email. Usually, opening a malicious email isn’t where the problem starts- it begins when you either open or download the attachment that came with it.
These attachments contain malicious codes that allow the hackers to install malware into your device that can not just send bulk email from your profile to others, crash your computer, but even leak sensitive information like your passwords and confidential credentials.
And especially beware of emails that read like: ‘Congrats, you are the billionaire of the century. You beat Zuckerberg. Click to claim your reward’. You’re not getting to buy that private island you wish to, with that ‘dummy’ money, but you might have to spend a few bucks on getting the virus removed.
Visiting unknown URLs and using unsecured WiFi connections
This is the age of technology, and almost anyone is capable of creating a website that includes somebody with malicious intent to give you and your device a hard time. Visiting an unknown website and opening unknown URLs, especially ones that do not have an SSL certificate to authenticate their security (however, many trusted websites do not have SSL certificates when they should), can lead to high chances of your device being infected with a virus or malware or even spyware.
A malicious website has the potency to read your computer or mobile data, transfer more infected files to your device (as if what’s already done wasn’t enough), and gain access to sensitive information. When you access a website that isn’t secure, you run the risk of exposing the sensitive data that you do want to be treasured.
Another way the Internet can aid in getting your device infected is operating on an unknown WiFi (especially making financial transactions or entering passwords) without enabling a VPN or inbuilt or third-party antivirus protection.
Malvertising, as mentioned before (yes, a malicious advert like the Zuckerberg email is malvertising), is yet another way your device runs the risk of getting exposed to a virus. The worst part is that the virus isn’t easily traceable, making it harder to eradicate it from the system. Other than the obvious advertisements, some hackers place clean ads on trusted websites to gain some credibility and, after a while, infect the ad with malicious code. When you click on this clean-looking ad, the code passes to your mobile or computer, making it vulnerable to virus attacks.
Inserting or connecting an infected disc/ disk/ drive
One of the most common ways that make your computer or phone highly susceptible to getting infected with a virus is injecting an unknown or infected disk or drive without scanning it for any malware first. As long as the disk or drive is writable, the virus can easily wriggle to your computer from the drive.
Hackers can easily gain access to your network when you use the infected thumb drive that contains a nastily malicious code, allowing your device to be vulnerable to trojan horse attacks.
If you haven’t used a drive you’re going to now or using a friend’s drive on your computer, make sure you scan it with either the in-built antivirus software or a reliable third-party software to avoid the horse from neighing from within your computer (see what I just did?).
Pirating Software, Music, or Movies
If you’ve ever downloaded pirated movies from the Internet (all of us have, at least once), there are high chances you’ve encountered multiple pop-ups and dummy sites that pester the hell out of a person. These dummy sites aren’t just annoying; they’re highly unsafe and capable of infecting your device.
So, repeat with me: Never download a pirated ANYTHING!
When you or someone on your device uses a file distribution network, such as BitTorrent, to download any pirated music, movie, or software, you run the risk of exposing yourself to some highly potent virus that can wreak havoc on your computer.
The pirated files that you download have a higher chance of containing a virus, trojans, spyware, malware, and everything that you want to avoid from hitting your computer, so you may not be able to analyze what’s in the file you are downloading (unethically), but you do know that there’s always a risk.
Plus, it’s so immoral!
Not just music, movies, or software, downloading malicious apps can also put your data at a huge risk of getting stolen. A recent incident occurred when users downloaded an application called InstaAgent that stole their Instagram credentials and sold them to a third-party server. These apps can be in any segment from finance to e-commerce, so look out for the credibility of what you are installing.
Downloading Malicious Software from a reliable source
This may sound a little unfair, but your device can get infected even when it downloads software from a reliable and trusted source. When you tell people your PC got infected with a virus upon installing software, the first thing that comes to the listener’s mind is ‘Oh, must be prorated.’ However, even when you’re downloading software, a game, a utility, or a program from a source that you trust with your PC’s security can embed a virus into your device.
This usually happens when the developer uses pirated development tools that have been unethically acquired and, not to mention, compromised. Every software, utility, or in general, anything developed using these tools will have a malicious code that can steal sensitive data and damage your device.
So when you’ve downloaded any program or software from the Internet (it doesn’t matter how reliable a source), make sure to run it through an antivirus software to check if the file is clean.
Not having an antivirus and spyware scanner.
Every computer running on Windows 10 (it’s 2020) has an inbuilt defense against viruses, spyware, and malware, but the fact is that these defenses fail to recognize some cleverly coded viruses that pass the barrier without even letting the defense know.
Much like Kitty from Puss in Boots!
Having some form of additional antivirus and malware protection can be a great help to increase the longevity of your device’s age and health. With antivirus protection, your data isn’t just safe; it’s behind multiple layered protection that removes any existing viruses and expels any sort of malware from entering your golden cave (the device) in the first place.
Not running the latest updates.
Using an older version of Windows or macOS probably means that your device isn’t security-oriented. The latest updates don’t just improve the user experience and performance but often have some additional security features that can enhance your device’s protection.
So, whenever you have the latest update on your device, make sure you install it and enjoy not just more features but better security.
5 Things an Antivirus Software Can Do for You
Gone are the days when a basic ‘virus’ was a threat to a computer and gone are the days of the ordinary ‘antiviruses.’ I am not sure antivirus is an ‘antivirus’ software anymore because when you get to know all the features that it showcases (mostly paid antiviruses), you’ll be bound to call them ‘panacea-cum-antiviruses’.
What are some amazing tricks that antivirus software has in its hat for you? Let’s find out.
The virus isn’t ‘virus’ anymore- it’s more lethal and damaging to your software, and it has the name ‘malware.’ Malware, like ransomware, is the most insidious form of viruses that are so untraceable that it gets almost impossible to cure them.
They aren’t just hard to remove but also have some serious and damaging consequences such as freezing of access to the files or, even worse- blocking the PC or laptop completely.
Antivirus software is much more potent at scanning and removing ransomware in comparison to inbuilt antivirus defenses. But why wait for the virus to attack? Operating with a pre-installed antivirus doesn’t just eradicate any signs of bugs and viruses; it counters them way before they could enter the system and do potential harm to your data and your computer. Performing a prophylactic function, antivirus software combat myriad viruses every day, and you wouldn’t even know about it.
If you are a business based on the Internet, antivirus software is like the backbone of your security. It doesn’t just prevent malware attacks; it saves the hefty amount you’d pay to a scammer in order to retrieve the lost data without having the surety that you ever will. Running without antivirus software is the same as running with bare feet on cobbled and pebbled tracks.
It hurts at the end.
Protection of Sensitive Data and Email Protection
The importance of privacy is something that I can’t really explain- you possibly already know all about it. Your bank account details, credit and debit card passwords are your most treasured financial assets, and compromising on these is the worst that can happen online.
Antivirus software goes out of its way to help protect your passwords and all the commercially sensitive information from a scammer’s reach. However, when I talk of ‘going beyond their way,’ I mean the antiviruses tackling the most sophisticated of malware- spyware. This spyware, as the name suggests, keeps a watch on when you enter sensitive information into your device and steal your valuable data.
Here, you’re left with two options: Buy an inexpensive antivirus software or lose thousands of dollars in a day. The call is yours to make.
Email Protection: As mentioned earlier, spoof emails are the most common way to introduce viruses and Trojans into your device and network. Trojans are what the nightmares are made of- they don’t just search into the deepest of corners or delete sensitive data files; they let swindlers gain access to your computer or laptop.
Those innocuous-looking images and links in your mail folders may get by you, but they don’t get through antivirus software. Good antivirus software like Norton or Kaspersky, etc., scans through your inbox to look for incoming media and files, warning you about ones that can be malicious and potentially harmful.
Hackers and spammers often use malware to get access to the victim’s data and then demand some serious ransom to either give you access to the files or delete what they have. If this doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, we can have a look at the ransomware attack on Software AG that was hit by the Clop ransomware, and the hackers demanded over $20 million to release the data. Sound serious enough?
Good antivirus software doesn’t just prevent malware attacks in your emails; they scan every channel available to look for hackers and hacker-based programs to provide you 360-degree protection against scamming and hacking.
Improved Online Security
This feature of AV software is the most crucial to businesses based online, such as e-Commerce platforms. When most of your actions such as transactions, saving credit cards and accepting online payments occur online, antivirus software provides a highly secure environment for all commercial actions, from online payments to protecting the card information.
AV software catering to the needs of online businesses provides even higher levels of security, including the blocking of fraudulent sites and phishing attacks or data breaches. Most of this software not only provides a safer environment for business but also offers improved protection of transactions with the help of TLS, SSL, and end-to-end encryptions.
Apart from this, antivirus software blocks your access to sites that are prone to get hit by hackers or have malicious components that allow phishing and malware attacks. It may sound authoritarian, but antivirus software does what it takes to keep you safe from every possible cyber and virus threat that dares to come at you.
Improved PC Performance
Boosted PC performance isn’t really something that AV software offer; it’s just another perk of having them. Think of it like this: One PC is hit by malware or worse, a Trojan that keeps crashing the device, freezes the access, drains down the battery too soon, and slows down the PC, in general. On the other hand is a PC that is pre-equipped with antivirus protection, which allows it to work at its optimal speed, perform without any freezing, and to crash while also allowing it to maintain good battery health. Which one performs better? Of course, the latter!
Background Scanning without Impacting the System heavily: An antivirus software isn’t’ all about boosting your PC performance (duh!). When an inbuilt AV defense runs its course to check for viruses and other potential threats, it slows down the computer for a while, also impacting the system heavily.
However, reputed third-party AV software does background scanning every day, and you wouldn’t even know. They put a minimal impact on the performance of the PC while doing their job with smoothness and ease.
Many people think antivirus software is all about neutralizing malware and regular scanning of any potential threats, but that’s just one part of the equation. The other part of the equation offers myriad features, some of which may not be that inextricably linked to security, but having them anyway makes your life easier. These useful extras are a delightful addition to most paid AV software, and here are some of the frequently provided ones:
- Firewall and Phishing Protection: A firewall is crucial to monitor the incoming and outgoing traffic and double-check every data packet that is sent to you or transferred by you. AV software with an inbuilt firewall and phishing guard prevents you from unintentionally opening a malicious website that can make you prey to damaging phishing attacks.
Two-way firewall protection in antivirus software allows you to make secure payments without having to worry about some data breacher getting their hands on sensitive login credentials and card details.
- Password Manager: With password managing abilities, AV software prevents password thieves from compromising your privacy. The passwords are usually highly encrypted against firewalls and multiple layered security that even the sneakiest of viruses couldn’t crack. When on the hunt for software that can manage your passwords, look for ones that have extra-layered security and robust encryption.
Though the password manager may sound like an essential, a file shredder and a file manager provided by AV software are equally important for businesses operating on PCs.
- Parental Controls: Worried about what your kid bumps across on the Internet? Let’s face it: the Internet is a huge place with little to no restriction on the viewers and what they see. When you want your kid to focus on the positive thighs on the Internet, antivirus software can help you do that. Softwares with centralized access to the network give you control of what your child will see on the Internet.
- The monitoring tools keep tabs on the activities, prompting the kids to surf on only the safe side of the Internet. ESET NOD 32 is one of the most prominent antivirus software that provides efficient monitoring controls on the other devices running on the same network (also housing the same software).
- Spam Filter and Ad Blocker: Malvertises is one of the most common ways a virus enters your device. Software with an ad-blocking feature gives you the privilege to surf the Internet without facing spam emails and ads that can have potentially malicious codes that can sneak into your PC and wreak havoc.
Pop-up ads and spam websites are the frequently used channels through which viruses get entry to your PC or mobile, and having software such as Bullguard or any other high-end AV software blocks direct access of these ads and websites to your network and server.
- USB and Disc Scanning: I wouldn’t even have to guess how many time you’ve used removable devices to
Top 10 Antivirus Software to protect you this year
While you whip up some trinkets for your loved ones, you deserve a gift too- so, just when you are paying for those tote bags and hot chocolate to bring home on New Year, I’d suggest you gift yourself robust PC security that isn’t something will exhaust in a while, it will give back to you.
Having said that, I have gone through 26 Antivirus software to accurately pick the ones that are ruling the world of device protection this year. What are the criteria I shortlisted this AV software on?
- Strong Malware Protection
- Top-notch additional features
- Speed and efficiency
- Ease of Use and Management (also Customer support)
It isn’t just me, but you too should vet an AV software based on the following factors above to understand what software you need for yourself and which you don’t.
Alright, I, too, have been champing at the bit to get down to the list, so let’s get started with it without further ado!
It’s a full-fledged battle between the software and the viruses! May the ‘protection’ be with you!
McAfee AntiVirus Plus
Gone are the days when you needed antivirus software to protect your single PC. In today’s world, it isn’t just your computer that is vulnerable to virus attacks; it’s your android and iOS too, which is why McAfee wins the race far ahead.
At $59.99 per year, you get unlimited McAfee licenses that you can incorporate in any and every PC, Mac, Android, or iOS in your house. The excellent virus protection abilities make it stand out from its competitors with a 100% detection rate and a standout feature called ‘My Home Network’ that provides an easily readable map of the devices that are connected to your WiFi network, giving you the complete centralized power over the online security, preventing intruders from breaking in.
There are multiple extra additions in the software that make it a worthy purchase, and the Total Protection packages offer a 30-day money-back guarantee- so McAfee either works for you, or it doesn’t. One thing worth appreciation is that McAfee has gloriously positive reviews for multiple-layered online security tests conducted by independent labs, and if you’re looking to highly enhance your home network along with the prevention from virus attacks (with endless other features), McAfee is hands down the strongest antivirus software in the battlefield.
Norton AntiVirus Plus (by NortonLife LifeLock) provides an excellent range of features across its 360-degree package. With real-time malware protection, unlimited VPN access, ginormous cloud storage of 10 GB, and a password manager that isn’t very common in much other software, Norton AntiVirus Plus can be great for people that have just begun to get around the Antivirus technology. The full-blown firewall, online banking protection, and robust script control are yet another of the many additional features Norton AntiVirus Plus houses.
Well, here’s the catch: with $59.99 per year for a single license, Norton doesn’t exactly come off cheap. When McAfee provides some excellent features at near about the same price range on multiple devices that you own, you shall have to pay those bucks to invest in security on a single device with Norton. The pricing is almost impractical, and if you want to invest in Norton Protection, I’ll recommend you go for Norton 360 suite products that will cut down on the pricing a bit.
The anti-ransomware can get better, and it isn’t as positive upon testing as McAfee, and the interface isn’t assorted to support absolute amateurs.
Norton has quality customer support, which allows you to seek help from the Norton professionals who will remotely log into your PC and fix the issues you’re facing if you can’t do it yourself following the recommended steps. If Norton Professionals are unable to fix the issues at hand, you can apply for a refund that is easily processed to your account upon approval.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
Bitdefender has over 500 million proud users who chose this absolute gem of antivirus protection for the best. Bitdefender Total Security offered by Bitdefender is one of the most affordable and highly effective antivirus solutions that flex highly positive results on Independent Lab Testing such as AV-Test and AV-Comparatives.
With an extensive range of features such as web protection (including protection against fraud, theft, spam, and phishing attacks), in-built VPN, tune-up tools, excellent parental controls, and on-time real protection against that nasty spyware, malware, and Trojans, Bitdefender is one of the top contenders to McAfee and Norton.
The Bitdefender antivirus engine is powered with an Advanced Threat Defense that watches over your active applications or applications running in your background and a deep-set Ransomware Protection that safeguards your data with the highest encryption.
When I took up the installation process, it felt like perpetuity had passed by when it finished the setup process while also being resource-intensive, which can be problematic to older systems on which it will be running. Apart from that, the only downside is the congested and complicated software that isn’t designed for beginners.
When it comes to pricing, you are provided with the best in the least, meaning Bitdefender offers phenomenal features at the most competitive rates, giving you access to its robust security on up to three devices.
When polymorphic malware and pernicious ransomware rule the world of threats, you’d want some protection from an AV software that does more than just prevent viruses from attacking your system. Malwarebytes Premium is your update from the regular.
With a behavior-based analysis, Malwarebytes Premium doesn’t just remove threats from virus; it offers multiple layers of protection, which is equivalent to keeping the damsel on the topmost floor of the highly guarded fort.
A full Threat Scan allows you to scan and clean systems within minutes with signature-based detection, which makes it super-fast (maybe faster than Flash). The robust web protection blocks traffic from unknown and fraudulent sites from gaining access to your network. The on-time ransomware protection watches for unnatural behavior in the application’s tab to instantly alert the user of ransomware and prompt them to take necessary actions.
Malwarebytes Premium costs $39.99 per year, and upon an operation of $39.99, you can utilize its sheer features on five devices.
One of the most affordable antivirus software with an annual subscription costing only $29.99, Kaspersky is a serious look for those who are looking for affordability blended with security. It is supremely easy to use, which makes it one of the best options in the market for a beginner to try their hard on the working without having to spend a hefty amount of money on it.
Instead of focusing on too many peripheral features, Kaspersky AntiVirus targets the basics of preventing and detecting viruses, malware, and other potential threats to your Windows. With a generous amount of features, including blocking of malicious URLs, on-site threat removal, super-fast and accurate scanning, and smart monitoring, Kaspersky has worked on its product to make affordability meet quality.
The weaker points where Kaspersky lost points were the extra trimmings and lack of some essential features provided by most other paid antivirus software. Some of the troubleshooting options have a specific value that may not prove as helpful when trying to solve some critical issues.
However, it has an intelligent firewall, and upon Independent Lab Testing, Kaspersky has scored relatively higher than its competitors in the same price range, making it one of the best-performing security packages, not just ideal for simplified security management but crypto mining infection prevention, too.
Sophos Home Premium
Sophos Home Premium offers a clean and user-friendly interface that makes it quite handy, lightweight, and easy to use, even for beginners. It can protect up to 10 devices, which makes it quite impressive and highly cost-effective.
Although it’s designed to help novices get around using the software, techies may find the interface overly simplified and clunky, which isn’t a bad thing; however, the lack of options may be disappointing to them. One bright side that the tech-savvy users will enjoy is the web management console that allows them to manage the devices of their not-so-techie house members’ devices.
Sophos Home Premium offers endpoint and power protection to businesses and has the necessary remote management features for common businesses. Though Sophos is inexpensive antivirus software, it scored well in the lab tests, it offers a free edition with limited features, and the premium edition is available at a cost-effective price of $60 per year.
Webroot Secure Anywhere Antivirus
With so many gigantic sized software attaining a file size of 700-80MB, housing more than 1200 files, Webroot is ridiculously smaller and faster to set up. File size of ONLY 4 MB that contains all the sheer features and robust security, Webroot Secure Anywhere Antivirus was meant to be the obvious addition to the list.
Keeping a light touch on your systems and resources, it aces most independent tests with high scores in malware protection and even protection against ransomware activity. Upon setup it immediately starts scanning active malware, optimizing performance, and analyzing previously installed applications.
Webroot’s firewall, however, doesn’t work as well as other softwares in the same price range, giving it negative points on internet protection. Although, under the right circumstances, it has the potential to reverse the ransomware damages that you can frequently encounter on the Internet.
If you want a feather-light software that has decent features, Webroot Secure Anywhere Antivirus is sure to please you.
The uncompromising ransomware protection makes G-Data one of the most comprehensive and robust AV software that incorporates next-gen technology to detect camouflaged and the sneakiest of malware to keep you one step ahead of hackers and scammers.
The sophisticated virus scanner works with signatures to determine the individual features of each malware strain. The two powerful scan engines work to guarantee maximum security with doubled protection, scanning for widely distributed malware, and digging out the most pernicious localized threats that usually go unnoticed.
Protecting primed websites through internally developed technology, G-Data has a spam filtering utility to filter through spam and spoof mails to give you the ‘full-security-suite’ experience at minimal prices.
The software has earned great scores on protection against nasty threats like Trojans and has glowing ransomware protection that quashes its completion with better scores through porous testing.
ESET NOD 32 Antivirus
Eset NOD 32 Antivirus is more than just an antivirus; with the bonus features, it exterminates malware and maintains vigilance to prevent further attacks. It has a Host Intrusion Prevention System which scans your PC’S firmware and elaborates the device’s control system.
It scored remarkably well in its lab tests, and it also has some premium and advanced features which might be complex for an average user, so I wouldn’t recommend it to people who are starting to venture into the vertical of antivirus software.
The useful, handy, and enhanced features like malware protection, heuristic detection, URL filtering, which blocks malicious websites, all these features make ESET NOD32 antivirus a good option for your PC’S security and protection. ESET NOD32 antivirus software offers a 30-days free trial, and if you think of buying the subscription, it would cost $39.99 for a year of total protection, which is in line with most other AVs.
Intego Mac Security and Antivirus Software
Intego is the all in one macOS antivirus software which is designed to keep all your Macs safe and protected. Intego not only focuses on protecting the system, but it also provides efficient internet security and comes with an optimization tool, which helps to enhance Apple’s built-in safety features, including Real-time malware protection, network security, parental control, advanced Mac backup, and more.
The one downside to the software is that it may be fast at scanning your device and has multiple customizable backup options; it lacks the lightweight factor, which makes it quite heavy for a PC or laptop running low on storage.
Apart from that, Intego is an efficient, lightweight, customizable antivirus software engineered to provide you with optimum security at a super-fast antivirus scanning speed. Intego offers a 30days money-back guarantee so that you can check whether it offers the best protection to your Mac devices or not.