The Best 4 Antivirus Software of 2017

Defend Yourself from Online Threats

Most Downloaded

BitDefender Logo

29,99 USD

McAfee Logo

49,95 SGD

Norton Logo

39,00 SGD

Panda Logo

19,99 USD

Temporary Discount
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Overall Score
Combines protection, price, features and service

100%

98%

96%

94%

Windows 10
Indicates the compatibility of the software with Windows 10

Anti-Malware
Protection from viruses, Trojans and other malware

Identity Protection
Protects your sensitive and financial data from hackers

Firewall
Prevents hackers from accessing your devices

Password Protection
Generates and safely stores highly secure passwords

PC-Mag Award
PC-Mag is a USA based IT-security test lab

AV-Comparatives Award
AV-Comparatives is a Austria based IT-security test lab

Most Downloaded
Most downloaded security software in Singapore

Compatible Devices
The software works on the following devices
Windows, Mac and Android
Windows, Mac and Android
Windows, Mac and Android
Windows, Mac and Android
BitDefender Logo

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Great Test Scores: BitDefender belongs to the absolute best in the industry. it achieves the highest scores possible, both in our own tests, as well as those by PC Mag and AV Test.
  • Very Low Performance Impact: BitDefender uses very little resources and will keep your PC running smoothly.
  • Excellent Offline Protection: BitDefender offers one of the most complete feature sets for offline protection.
  • Excellent Online Protection: BitDefender automatically takes the best security decisions for you in securing your data, protecting online payments and safeguarding online privacy.

Cons

  • Limited protection for Mac: Compared to Norton’s protection for Mac, BitDefender for Mac lacks both a firewall and anti-spam. BitDefender’s Internet Security and Total Security for Windows do have both features.

Products

For Windows:

  • BitDefender Antivirus Plus
    • For: 1 to 10 PC’s
    • What: Offline protection
    • Buy if: You have a PC and need offline protection only
  • BitDefender Internet Security
    • For: 1 to 10 PC’s
    • What: Online & offline protection (includes all features from Antivirus Plus, and adds a firewall and anti-spam)
    • Buy if: You have a PC and need offline and online protection
  • BitDefender Total Security
    • For: 1 to 10 PC’s
    • What: Online & offline protection (includes all features from Internet Security, and adds a file optimiser, anti-theft and file encryption)
    • Buy if: You have a PC and want the best protection

For Mac:

  • BitDefender for Mac
    • For: 1 to 3 Mac’s
    • What: Offline protection for Mac
    • Buy if: You have a Mac and want offline protection

For Mobile:

  • BitDefender Mobile Security:
    • For: Android devices
    • What: Mobile and anti-theft protection
    • Buy if: You only have Android devices

BitDefender Antivirus

Save up to 50% with unique discounts

Total Score: 100%

Superb protection, but upgrade to Internet or Total Security for all features

Technical Support

Includes a knowledge base, FAQs, forum, online chat, and phone support

Compatible with Windows 10

BitDefender works seamlessly with the new Windows 10

Money-back Guarantee

BitDefender offers a generous, 30 day return policy

Headquartered in Romania

BitDefender originates from Bucharest, Romania

Multiple Devices

BitDefender sells separate Mac, Windows and Mobile products

McAfee Antivirus Logo

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Great Protection: McAfee offers excellent protection for all your devices, whether Mac, Windows, Android or iOS. Both in our own tests as well as in those of PC Mag, it achieves top-tier scores in all areas.
  • Low Performance Impact: McAfee requires very little of your system to keep you protected. So no matter on what device you use McAfee, it will remain as smooth as ever.
  • Protect Unlimited Devices with 1 Purchase: Every product you buy from McAfee, let’s you install it on as many devices as you like with a single subscription. This is unique in the industry.
  • Exceptional Password Manager: McAfee’s password manager, called True Key, goes one step further than the rest. It offers not just the generation and storage of secure passwords, but logging in with features that are unique to you; like your face, fingerprint or second device.

Cons

  • Limited protection for Mac: Compared to Norton’s protection for Mac, McAfee offers limited protection on these devices.

Products

For Windows, Mac or Mobile:

  • McAfee Antivirus Plus
    • For: Unlimited devices
    • What: Offline and basic online protection
    • Buy if: You want offline and basic online protection only
  • McAfee Internet Security
    • For: Unlimited devices
    • What: Offline & full online protection (includes all features from Antivirus Plus, and adds a parental control and anti-spam)
    • Buy if: You want offline and full online protection
  • Mcafee Total Protection
    • For: Unlimited devices
    • What: Offline & premium online protection (includes all features from Internet Security, and adds a password manager and file encryption)
    • Buy if: You want the best protection

Note:

In some regions McAfee also sells LiveSafe. This premium product either replaces McAfee Total Protection or is sold as its bigger brother. The two products offer the same protection features, but LiveSafe offers cloud storage on top.

McAfee Antivirus

Save up to 32% with unique discounts

Total Score: 98%

Perfectly protects an unlimited number of devices, at a single purchase

Technical Support

Includes a knowledge base, FAQs, forum, online chat, and phone support

Compatible with Windows 10

McAfee works seamlessly with the new Windows 10

Money-back Guarantee

McAfee offers a generous, 30 day return policy

Headquartered in California

McAfee originates from Santa Clara, California, United States

Multiple Devices

One subscription protects unlimited Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices

Norton Antivirus Logo

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Great Protection: Norton scores industry-leading test results in both our own tests, as well as those of other independent organisations such as AV-Test and PC Mag.
  • Very Low Performance Impact: It has hardly any impact on a PC’s, Mac’s or Mobile’s performance. Meaning your devices remain as smooth and fast as ever.
  • The Most Complete Features: Norton offers something unique; almost all of its online and offline protection features are available in all of its products, whether you choose its entry-level or premium product. The difference between their products is based on which devices (PC, Mac or Mobile) you want to protect and how many, not on what features you want.
  • Award-Winning Parent Control: If you have a family, and want to protect your kids online, Norton Security Premium (it’s most luxurious product) offers one additional feature the others don’t: Exceptionally good parental control. Keep your kids safe!

Cons

  • Limited protection for iOS: Norton’s protection for iOS devices is limited compared to its industry-leading protection for PC, Mac and Android.

Products

For Windows, Mac and Mobile:

  • Norton Security Standard
    • For: 1 Mac or PC
    • What: Online & offline protection
    • Buy if: You only need to protect 1 PC or Mac
  • Norton Security Deluxe
    • For: 3 Devices; Mac, PC, Android and/or iOS
    • What: Online & offline protection (includes all features from Security Standard and award winning parental control on top)
    • Buy if: You need to protect multiple devices
  • Norton Security Premium
    • For: 5 Devices; Mac, PC, Android and/or iOS
    • What: Online & offline protection (equal to Norton Security Deluxe)
    • Buy if: You need to protect your family

For Mobile only:

  • Norton Mobile Security
    • For: Multiple iOS or Android devices
    • What: Mobile and anti-theft protection
    • Buy if: You only have Android and iOS devices

Norton Security

Save up to 50% with unique discounts

Total Score: 96%

Norton is simply excellent, but comes at a slightly higher price

Technical Support

Includes a knowledge base, FAQs, forum, online chat, and phone support

Compatible with Windows 10

Norton works seamlessly with the new Windows 10

Money-back Guarantee

Norton offers a generous, 60 day return policy

Headquartered in California

Norton originates from Mountain View, California, United States

Multiple Devices

One subscription will protect Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices

Panda Antivirus Logo

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Good Protection: Panda scores good results in all tests performed by PC Mag, AV Test and VRML, just slightly below the absolute best in the industry.
  • Low Performance Impact: Panda has some a relatively low performance impact on your system, keeping your PC running smooth and fast.
  • High Tech Bonus Features: Panda includes a range of interesting high tech bonus features such as WiFi protection and a password manager that is more advanced than average.
  • Excellent Value for Money: Panda offers some of the deepest discounts available here at VRML, giving it probably the best value for money of all the products in our comparison.

Cons

  • Limited protection for Mac: Compared to its protection features for PC, Panda offers limited protection for Mac and iOS devices.

Products

For Windows or Mobile:

  • Panda Antivirus Pro
    • For: 1 to 10 Devices
    • What: Offline and basic online protection
    • Buy if: You want offline and basic online protection only

For Windows, Mac or Mobile:

  • Panda Internet Security
    • For: 1 to 10 Devices
    • What: Offline & full online protection (includes all features from Antivirus Pro, and adds parental control and a security backup)
    • Buy if: You want offline and full online protection
  • Panda Global Protection
    • For: 1 to 10 Devices
    • What: Offline & premium online protection (includes all features from Internet Security, and adds a password manager, file encryption and PC tune-up feature)
    • Buy if: You want the best protection

Panda Antivirus

Save up to 50% with unique discounts

Total Score: 94%

Panda offers great protection and excellent value for money

Technical Support

Includes a knowledge base, FAQs, forum, online chat, and phone support

Compatible with Windows 10

Panda works seamlessly with the new Windows 10

Money-back Guarantee

Panda offers a generous, 30 day return policy

Headquartered in Spain

Panda originates from Madrid, Spain

Multiple Devices

Panda sells separate Mac, Windows and Mobile products

How to Buy the Best Antivirus Software in 2017?

What is a cyberattack?

A cyberattack is “an attempt by hackers to damage or destroy a computer network or system”. Hackers are becoming sneakier, faster, and more difficult to catch. Take a look at the following facts:

    1. 317 million new types of malware (computer viruses or malicious software) were released in 2014, which calculates to almost 1 million a day.
    2. Blackmailing and ransomware attacks increased by 113% in 2014.
    3. When hackers release a line of spam emails, it takes roughly 82 seconds for the first victim to fall.
    4. 68% of funds lost in a cyberattack are never recovered.
    5. More than 600,000 Facebook accounts are compromised by hackers every single day.
    6. 1 in 10 social media users claim they’ve been a victim to a cyberattack.
    7. 99% of computers are vulnerable to software vulnerabilities; hackers love to exploit these.
    8. An international cybercrime group stole 1 billion dollars in 2 years from 30 banks, by simply sending spam emails to their employees asking for confidential information.

Considering these alarming facts, it’s not a surprise that cybersecurity is becoming a serious concern at all levels wether it be national, corporate or individual.

Nowadays people tend to own multiple devices, a computer, smartphone, or tablet, and do everything on them; shopping, online banking, communicating, the list goes on. For this reason it is ever more important to protect your devices from threats that could disrupt, destroy, and steal sensitive information.

That’s where antivirus software, also referred to as anti-malware, comes in. In brief, it is a program that helps prevent, detect, and remove any malware infections found on your device. We’ll go into detail a little later.

At VRML, the Virus Removal and Malware Lab, we are passionate about cybersecurity, and have put together an extensive guide to help you understand the threats that exist today, and exactly how the best antivirus software of 2016 can protect you and your loved ones.

What is malware?

Let’s start with talking about the source of the issue.

Malware is the abbreviated term for “malicious software”, and it refers to software that is designed with the purpose of accessing, damaging, and stealing information from a device without the owner’s consent. It usually happens by malicious code being inserted somehow into your browser, computer programs, or software.

Malware comes in many forms, offline and online, and range from simple, annoying pop-up advertisements, to a serious infection that damages one or more computers, stealing personal information and money. Sometimes even your browsing data is recorded and sold to third parties.

Another grave threat are zero-day attacks. This happens when a malware coder detects a vulnerability in a software or hardware, and immediately exploits this. They achieve this before the developer notices the vulnerability and fixes it; hence called a zero-day attack. It can take days or even years before the developer understands what happened.

The unfortunate thing is that there is an incomprehensible amount of new malware produced each day. Hackers are getting really good at being untraceable as well, and are getting even better at making the end user download the malware themselves.

You might be skeptical that a user would intentionally download malware, but have you ever downloaded some sort of “free software that will make your internet connection faster” from an unknown website?

Have you ever downloaded an instant messaging app that comes with other programs you’ve never heard of?

Or even more commonly, have you ever received an email from a sender you didn’t know, but it had an attractive proposal inside that you just had to click that weird looking link in the text or download the attachment?

In many cases, you probably just downloaded some form of malware.

There are many, many types of malware that attack the vulnerabilities in your device. Below we’ve outlined the various types of malware, what they are and how they could harm you. Don’t panic, afterwards we’ll explain how to protect yourself from them!

What types of malware exist?

Below are the types of malware threats that are most commonly seen today.

Viruses

Danger level: High

Prevalence: High

What:

You’ve probably heard most about these. They actually got their name because they work by making copies of themselves and spreading their ‘virus code’ to other programs.

Viruses don’t spread as fast as other malware types because they always need to attach themselves to existing programs, or wait for users to intervene. They spread their code when the user opens the infected programs, or via CDs and removable USB sticks.

Damage:

Viruses usually cause damage by removing files, adjusting the hard drive, or crashing the device. They can also show annoying text, video, or audio on your device.

Worms

Danger level: Very High

Prevalence: Medium

What:

Similar to a virus, they are self-replicating. However, they differ in the sense that they use the network to send copies of themselves to other computers connected to the same network.

As worms don’t need to attach themselves to programs or wait for user intervention, they spread extremely fast. They look at the addresses stored in your network and even the address book to send itself to others.

Damage:

Worms are extremely dangerous. Not only do they harm the network’s performance and consume a lot of bandwidth, but they can create a backdoor to your system for hackers. Hackers get easy access to the computer because of these backdoors, and can even add it to a botnet (explained below).

Trojans

Danger level: Very High

Prevalence: High

What:

Trojans usually appear to be harmless programs but in fact, extremely harmful code is embedded in them. Their name comes from the Greek mythology when Greece presented the city of Troy with a large wooden horse. Little did they know the horse was full of Greek warriors that later invaded their city.

Damage:

Trojans do a lot of damage. This can range from breaking, overwriting, compromising, deleting and corrupting important files, adding your computer to botnets (explained below), allowing remote access to your computer, creating backdoors for hackers to steal your sensitive and personal information, sending spam emails, and more.

Botnet

Danger level: Very High

Prevalence: High

What:

Botnets are often referred to as “zombie armies”. They are a collection of private computers that have been set up in a network. The owners are completely unaware.

This “army” of computers is set up to forward any malware that they receive from their hackers, to as many devices as possible. The computers are referred to as zombies because they are, in essence, “robots” that obey any command their master hacker wants. 1 in 4 private computers are part of a botnet.

Damage:

There is a lot of damage to be done here. The zombie army receives and forwards malware, so it could mean spreading worms, viruses, and trojans, not to mention it can damage the system’s performance.

Phishing

Danger level: Very High

Prevalence: High

What:

Phishing attacks are when hackers try to steal a user’s confidential information such as banking details, passwords and credit card details, often through emails. They usually appear like a certified business asking for your details, such as PayPal or eBay, but in fact are hackers tricking you into going to a non-legitimate page where you yourself end up inputting your details.

Damage:

The damage is high. Hackers trick the user and use the sensitive information to steal money, make purchases under your name, and even block the user’s access to their own accounts. Acts like this can ruin the user’s credit rating, and users can lose a substantial amount of money. 

Keylogging

Danger level: Very High

Prevalence: High

What:

A keylogger is a program that is installed on a computer, and monitors the specific letters that users type on their keyboards. They record sensitive information such as passwords for online banking accounts. The data is forwarded to a remote computer.

It can also come in hardware form: a plug that looks like an ordinary connector between a keyboard and computer. The keylogger returns at some point and takes the information stored on this little ‘plug’.

Damage:

If the keylogger manages to track your passwords and sensitive financial details, they can use this to steal money. If you use public computers the danger is even higher, because you will not know whether what’s connecting the keyboard to the computer is a legitimate plug.

Spam

Danger level: Medium

Prevalence: Very High

What:

If you own an email account, you’ve probably already dealt with an endless amount of spammy messages. Junk mail is something that a lot of people struggle with. In 2013, roughly 97 billion spam emails were sent out worldwide, each day.

They are usually anonymous or from a sender you don’t recognise, and contain malicious links or attachments. Some do not contain viruses or malware, but instead have a fake proposal to convince you to send someone money.

Damage: 

Spam emails overload your inbox, damage mail servers and even your network. However, unless you open the email and click on the malicious link or attachment, they usually cannot harm you.

Spyware

Danger level: Very High

Prevalence: High

What:

Spyware is an increasingly common form of malware that, like it name states, spies and gathers information about a user.

You’re tracked whatever you do: the websites you visit, credit card information, passwords, usernames, you name it. Spyware can also redirect you to malicious websites while you’re browsing.

Damage:

This information can be used against you to steal money. Aside from spying on you, this type of malware can install other malware onto your device. As a result, your system’s performance can degrade significantly.

Adware

Danger level: Low to Medium

Prevalence: Very high

What:

Adware is probably something we’ve all experienced at one point; it plays, downloads, or displays annoying advertisements on your computer. It usually comes with free software that a user downloads. Adware gathers your personal information and sends it to a base computer.

Damage:

Although Adware is not as harmful as other types of malware, it can impact the computer’s performance. In addition, there have been cases of spyware being among the adware’s ads. This can be very dangerous.

Scareware

Danger level: Medium

Prevalence: Medium

What:

Scareware is a form of malware that scares you into buying fake anti-malware. It will start sending a lot of fake notifications that say you have infections on your device, and recommend a type of anti-malware that is completely fake and loaded with other forms of malware.

Damage:

This malware is not as dangerous as the others because it can only come into effect if you download the “anti-malware”. If you do, your computer is definitely in more danger as you don’t know what you’re getting.

How can a device get infected?

In order to be proactive about your safety, t is extremely important to understand how malware gets into the device. There are various ways a device can get infected:

Online Ads:

We’ve all experienced these. The random popups that appear when surfing the web, those ads that don’t let you click away, or even the ones that automatically download a file, the list goes on. These are all popular methods of spreading malware across online advertisements. 

Malware Encryption:

There are often times where malware can get through the antivirus software’s protective layer by  altering the code’s composition via encryption or obfuscation. A very simple example would be if a malware file called “virus.exe” was altered to “virus-101.exe”. Although the antivirus software could have “virus.exe” registered in its database, it may not know of the altered version. The leading security companies are aware of this, and they make sure to investigate and update the possible variants in their database.

Social Media:

Can you think of a friend that had one of their social media accounts hacked in the last year? You can probably name a few. This is an extremely popular way to spread malware. Recent research shows that more than 75% of malware enters devices through social media. Earlier we mentioned that statistically, more than 600,000 Facebook accounts are compromised by hackers on a daily basis. Malware is easy to spread here because the malicious messages are sent and received from names that people recognise, so they are more likely to open it and/or download that the attachment.

Mobile Malware:

There have been cases where malware-ridden apps register themselves on Google Play, and when a user downloads them, the device infected the next time the app is opened. It is predicted that incidents like these will increase dramatically over the coming years, as apps continue to be a critical element of the smartphone experience.

Users:

Malware coders have been getting very good at understanding the behaviour of users, and know how to encourage them to download malware themselves. This can happen by deliberately clicking on spammy links, entering a website even if the browser recommends otherwise, downloading attachments from emails received from contacts you don’t know, going to spammy websites, downloading free software that presents itself as a game, and so on.

What is Antivirus Software / Anti-malware?

Now that you know everything about malware, it’s time to learn about how to protect your devices. Antivirus software or anti-malware, is defined as “a program that will prevent, detect and remediate malware infections on individual computing devices and IT systems”. It can also be referred to as anti-malware.

In the beginning, the name “antivirus” was given to these programs because they were specifically made to deal with viruses. However, they are now capable of handling the entire range of malware listed earlier.

How does an Antivirus Software / Anti-malware work?

The three key components are: prevention, detection, and removal of malware. The best antivirus  and anti-malware programs combine a variety of techniques and layers to provide the highest quality of protection as possible.

Scanning for Malware

On-access scanning:

The great thing about antivirus programs is that they offer real-time protection. They are constantly running in the background, making sure your device is malware-free. It can also be referred to as background scanning or real-time scanning.

There are options to use the antivirus program with this feature turned off, but it is highly recommended that you have it on. It is much better to prevent than to remove, because the reality is that it is difficult to know if the malware was completely removed.

Every time you try to download or open a file, the antivirus program scans it for any malicious elements (by comparing them to known malware on its database). It won’t let you open the file until it has been checked. This all happens in the blink of an eye, so to you it seems like the file opened immediately.

Full system scans:

These scans are no longer a necessity because of the on-access scanning. However, it is a good idea to run one if you’ve freshly installed an antivirus program, to check for any malware that already exists in your computer. It also is useful to run one when you know your computer has been infected. It’s time-consuming and doesn’t add significant value when the on-access scanning is running perfectly, so only run it if absolutely necessary.

Malware Detection Techniques

Signature-based:

Also known as Virus Definitions, an antivirus program cross-checks and validates all files with its database of known malware descriptions. The descriptions in this list are called definitions. These are usually updated by the security company once a day or more.

Antivirus companies are constantly under pressure to update their definitions to deal with the amount of new malware that emerges daily.

Heuristic/behaviour-based:

The best antivirus software providers claim to use this method. Heuristic-based detection is used to identify threats that have not been registered or recognised yet by the antivirus program’s definitions database. The underlying process is to analyse the behaviour and characteristics of a file to determine if it is malware. You will be notified in real-time if the program detects suspicious behaviour. Kind of like a police officer monitoring a suspect.

Cloud-based:

Nowadays, security providers use the cloud to store information about registered malware threats. In this case, the antivirus programs analyse malware threats on a device by providing specific information to the cloud. This means that locally, the antivirus program needs to process less, thereby using less resources and having less impact on the device’s system. What’s more, by using the cloud, the security company can analyse a bulk of information at once by collecting data from a variety of their users. It can be very useful for detecting new patterns of malware behaviour.

Eliminating Malware

If malware is detected, the file is placed in quarantine and you are notified. Depending on the antivirus program, it is deleted immediately or you will be given the option to examine it and delete it yourself, or to remove it from quarantine. Only remove it the file if you are absolutely certain it is safe.

False positives can occur. It can happen, especially with heuristics detection, that antivirus programs mis-interpret the behaviour of safe files. However, for industry-leading antivirus providers this is quite rare. If an antivirus informs you of an infected file, the right decision is to believe it. The antivirus programs of 2016 that we’ve selected in the comparison above have received the highest scores in the industry for detection, protection, and false-positives.

How to choose the right Antivirus for you?

Do I need an Antivirus program?

Your devices will definitely benefit from an antivirus program. As mentioned earlier, cyber security is absolutely crucial in modern times. Hundreds of thousands of new malware threats are being developed each day. In 2014, Kaspersky reported they found 123,000,000 types of malicious code.

As people move towards doing just about everything on their devices, malware coders see this as an excellent opportunity to make money.

It is true that malware tends to focus on Windows devices, because the sheer global volume of Windows users is much higher than Mac users. The bigger the target, the bigger the reward. According to independent labs such as AV-Test and AV Comparatives, Windows’ protection  capabilities, although improving, still fall behind that of the leading antivirus softwares on the market, making it easier to hack than Mac devices.

However, don’t take this for granted; Macs can still be hacked. The market share of Macs is increasing each year, and Windows’ security is improving year by year too. In addition, considering the price class of Apple products, Mac users tend to be wealthier than the average Windows user. This makes Mac users an attractive target.

At the moment the threat to Windows is considerably higher, but this could change in the near future. Investing in a good antivirus software for both Windows and Macs would be worth it.

Don’t forget about the smartphones. As smartphone usage increases, iOS and Android devices also get on the radar of malware coders. It is important to keep these devices safe.

To summarise, it is always a good idea to protect yourself from the millions of malware threats that exist today, no matter the operating system. The effects of getting infected by malware can range from harmless advertisements to identity hacking and extortion. Stay safe by avoiding these risks all together.

Free vs. Paid Antivirus – Should I pay for security?

Free products always sound like a great idea. Some security companies offer a free version of their antivirus software, but remember to take into account the following:

Free Antivirus:

The best thing about them is, off course, that they’re free. However, this also means that you don’t get the entire protection that you would if you paid for the product. The protection is actually quite minimal, and usually uses signature-based detection only (validating malware with the definitions that have already been registered on its database).

Some free products offer more, such as behaviour-based detection and add-ons to your browser that check the safety of URLs. However, these are usually limited to paid products, not to mention you will be bombarded with advertisement to upgrade to the paid versions.

Another key point is that you won’t get access to technical support. This is a big inconvenience because antivirus can be a complicated topic, so it is worth the money to have experts to turn to when something goes wrong.

Paid Antivirus:

The obvious benefit to paid antivirus software is that you have access to the entirety of protection the brand has to offer, technical support, and a wider variety of malware detection techniques are used. This includes using heuristic/cloud-based detection, and also identifying zero-day threats.

What’s more, you can access a set of bonus tools and features. Depending on the security company and the package you purchase, you will have Password Protection, protection for multiple devices and/or operating systems, Identity Protection, a Firewall, just to name a few.

Paid antivirus products offer the complete protection that your devices need. Now we’ll take a look at the range of paid products that security companies offer; Antivirus, Internet Security, and Total Security.

Antivirus vs. Internet Security vs. Total Security

Security companies tend to offer a range of 3 products; Antivirus, Internet Security, and Total Security. Though the exact titles change depending on the company, the essential differences between the 3 are roughly the same.

The entire range has anti-malware capabilities, but they satisfy distinct needs and offer varying degrees of protection and bonus features. The price tends to increase as well, Antivirus being the cheapest and Total Security the most expensive. Take a look at the details below:

A. Antivirus:

This is the most basic level of protection, and is usually for offline protection from malware such as viruses, worms, and trojans. What is offered at this stage completely depends on the company, but it is usually limited. Some brands offer some online protection via a firewall. A firewall prevents unauthorised online access to your computer.

If you aren’t a heavy internet user when it comes to browsing, online banking and don’t have many sensitive documents to protect, a standard antivirus package will do great for you.

B. Internet Security:

As the name suggests, Internet Security includes online protection from identity hackers and cybercriminals. This usually implies a firewall, anti-spam, anti-phishing, anti-spyware, and password protection. If you’re a heavy internet user, especially if you use online banking, the Internet Security programs come highly recommended.

The price is higher, but it is compensated by the wider range of protection tools and the ability to protect multiple devices across various operating systems (Windows, Mac, iOS or Android). As the internet now plays a crucial role in our daily lives, an Internet Security package is worthwhile for the majority of users.

C. Total Security:

This is usually the highest-priced security package. It is the most complete protection program, as it comes with the entire set of bonus tools and protection features that a brand can offer.

On top of the protection that Antivirus and Internet Security software provide, the extra features for a Total Security program include automatic backup for your sensitive files, parental control for those that want to protect their children from online threats, anti-theft for your smartphones to locate them when lost, file encryption, remote device access and they can protect between 10 to an unlimited number of devices of all operating systems, depending on the brand.

If you have a family, more than 5 devices to protect, and many sensitive documents, or simply like the sound of having access to more features, a total security package is highly recommended. Usually however, most users are content with an Internet Security program.

Key elements when selecting antivirus software

Your own needs:

Before anything ask yourself, what are your needs? Do you have multiple devices, a family to protect, a tight or large budget, are you a heavy internet user, do you have many sensitive files and documents on your device, do you want access to a wide range of features, etc? All these needs will determine the package you decide to go for.

After understanding what protection needs you have, it’s time to take a look at the technical components that will help you know what to look for.

Independent Lab Tests:

Currently there are 6 independent labs that test the protection capabilities of all antivirus products on the market:

        • AV-Comparatives
        • AV-Test
        • Dennis Technology Labs
        • ICSA Labs
        • Virus Bulletin
        • West Coast Labs

Each year, they put antivirus programs through rigorous tests and publish their scores, and are considered to be the industry’s benchmarks. Each lab has different ways of conducting the tests and presenting the scores, but they are usually categorised into protection, performance, and usability.

A. Protection:

This is the most important factor when comparing antivirus products, as it is what they were designed to do. The labs usually test this by running an antivirus program against registered threats, both offline and online.

They stimulate ‘real-life’ scenarios as well, by using zero-day malware, web & email-threats, and going to malicious websites, to see how the security program responds.

B. Performance:

For a security program to work, it has to use a portion of the device’s processing power. Each program requires a different amount of resources to run properly, and this in turn effects the speed and functionality of the device’s operating system. It is no use to download an antivirus program if it is going to slow down your computer significantly.

The key that the independent labs pay attention to, is the balance between excellent protection and the effect the program has on your computer’s performance. The antivirus products are tested by measuring the speed of various activities, such as downloading files, copying & distributing files and installing software, among others.

C. Usability:

Usability in this case refers to whether an antivirus program catches many false positives: identifying a safe software as a threat. If a program has too many false positives, this disturbs the usability for the user because of the bombardment of unnecessary notifications.

This is tested by comparing the ratio at which a program shows warning notifications against the false positives. The best antivirus brands have very few false positives.

In the product comparison above you will see that we have shown a ‘Total Protection Score’, which encompasses the test results from each of the categories: protection, performance and usability.

Features:

Each security company offers a different set of features across its Antivirus, Internet Security and Total Security programs. Some offer very few features at the antivirus level, while others are more generous. Some key features to pay attention to, other than the obvious anti-malware, are:

A. Great Interface

A simple, easy-to-use interface influences the experience of using any form of software. The key here is that a great antivirus program should have an intuitive interface, where the user can guide oneself through it without frustration nor confusion. This is taken into consideration in the ‘usability’ part of the Total Protection Score.

B. Supported Platforms

Security companies usually have Antivirus for Windows and Mac devices as standard, and include support for iOS and Android in their Internet Security and Total Security programs. However, this really depends on the brand, so make sure you check this when selecting your security program. We’ve also outlined it for you in the comparison above.

C. Amount of Devices

Antivirus, Internet Security and Total Security programs are usually set up to support a certain number of devices with one subscription. Antivirus supports the least, and Total Security supports the most. Again, this completely depends on the brand. Take a look at the comparison above to see which brand best suits your needs.

D. Anti-phishing Capabilities

As defined earlier, phishing is when hackers try to steal a user’s confidential information through fraudulent emails and URLs. This is an extremely important feature for a security software. Most security companies offer this starting at the Antivirus package.

E. Anti-spam

At the standard Antivirus software, an anti-spam tool is considered an additional feature; it is usually offered at the Internet Security level. Take a look at our comparison above to see which brands offer this at their starting package.

F. Password Manager

An extremely useful tool; it remembers your passwords to key accounts and automatically fills them out for you when logging in. Even if you have many unique passwords that you forget, if they are registered with the password manager, you will be able to access and manage them through one master password. Not all security companies offer this at the Antivirus stage.

G. Firewall

Earlier we defined a firewall as something that protects your device from unauthorised access via the internet or network. For the standard Antivirus software, a firewall is considered an additional feature, usually offered from Internet Security. However, more and more users expect this to be provided at all three levels.

H. Money Back Guarantee

Security companies usually offer a very generous money-back return policy between 30 to 60 days, depending on the brand. This is great because you can buy free of risk.

Technical Support:

This is one of the most important points when choosing an antivirus program. Depending on the brand, you will be offered a range of support tools that can include a knowledge database, FAQs, forums, online chat, email and telephone support.

The leading security companies offer 24/7 support in their country of origin, and offer the same level of support at local office hours in the remaining countries and languages. Make sure to take a look at what the company offers for you, as having a strong base of expert, technical support will be worth it when a problem arises.

Our recommendations

After reviewing and testing 35 of the industry’s best antivirus products, we have selected 3 brands that are outstanding and have outlined them in the comparison above. Here are few factors we selected them on:

      1. Protection levels are top-notch and certified by independent labs.
      2. Satisfies a variety of user needs.
      3. The interface is intuitive to use.
      4. Offers great technical support across multiple countries & languages.
      5. Prices are affordable and satisfy a range of budgets.
      6. Are compatible with the latest operating systems of Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.
      7. Have generous return policies so you can buy free of risk.

You’re Ready

You’re now an expert on cybersecurity. You’ve learned the details you need to know about malware and how you can protect yourself from offline and online attacks. Now it’s time for you to decide which antivirus program to go for.

Take a moment to think about your protection needs, the type of device(s) you have, and your budget. Are you an avid internet user? Do you own both Windows and Mac devices? Are you on a tight budget?

Afterwards, we’ve already done the hard work for you. As mentioned earlier, we’ve selected 3 antivirus brands that lead the industry by miles.

Take a look at the comparison above to see them in more detail. You will see the specific characteristics each antivirus software has to offer, so select the one that fits you best.

Even after installing the antivirus program, be proactive. Remain aware of the emails you open, stay away from suspicious websites, only download attachments or files you trust, and keep your antivirus software updated.

On that note, thank you for reading our guide!

Remember: stay safe, stay protected.

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