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Why Antivirus Software Is As Important Today As Ever

Why Antivirus Software Is As Important Today As Ever

I sometimes have to remind myself that things have changed since the ‘90s. In particular, this is true with companies like Microsoft. In my mind, Windows is the same monster it was back then, crashing regularly and frustrating us with blue screens. MS Office is the cumbersome software package that no one on earth can afford. I use a Macbook now, so I don’t have the opportunities to overhaul those associations.

And the same is certainly true with antivirus software. I still struggle to see antivirus software as a relic of the early days of the internet. I expect it to slow down my computer, while only vaguely giving me an idea of what it’s doing.

The cult of Apple doesn’t help. Apple presents itself as the natural evolution of computing, rather than just another brand on the market. They’ve admittedly done an excellent job of keeping virus attacks on their systems to a minimum. In the process, they’ve allowed us to see antivirus software as superfluous at best, harmful at worst.

But these days, going without antivirus software is asking for trouble. Today, it is more important than ever to cover all of your bases.

Antivirus software has evolved

Firstly, it’s important to point out that antivirus software has evolved. It is no longer the drain on the system that it once was. Some of the old names might put you off, so take a look at this TotalAV review to see what a newer alternative can offer.

It’s relatively cheap, simple to use, and doesn’t slow your computer to the point that you wish for a virus in its place.

And you’ll want to consider getting antivirus software immediately if you don’t have it already. The following should convince you why.

International cyber attacks

It’s no secret that certain countries are using cyber attacks to manipulate political systems throughout the world. Even the US president agrees 50% of the time that Russia influenced the election that brought him to power.

They use covert means like spreading fake news over Facebook and influencing opinions using Facebook groups.

But their attacks are not limited to campaigns to influence opinion. They’re increasingly causing chaos by sending out targeted viruses. A cyber virus that first surfaced in Ukraine recently spread throughout the world. While it was, on the surface, an attempt at extortion, it seemed the real reasons behind the attack were more malicious. It appears that the virus was meant to cause chaos, breaking down systems and harming businesses.

The important point to take out of this is that over the next few years, we can expect cyber attacks to only get worse. Rather than hackers causing trouble or making a bit of money, governments are going to be targeting people and businesses for reasons with far more gravity.

Antivirus software is not what it once was, and neither is the threat of viruses. The threat is far greater now, and it is prudent, to say the least, to protect yourself. Go for one of the new names if you feel uncomfortable with the old favorites of the past. It is well worth it.

6 Ways to Protect Yourself on the Internet

6 Ways to Protect Yourself on the Internet

  • Whether you are an employee, owner, or a home worker, your work will certainly involve the internet. However, while the digital world offers a wide range of tools to boost productivity, it is also a hotbed for malware and fraud tools designed to steal your information.

    Wondering how you can stay safe while online? Read on for 6 must-know tips every savvy netizen should know.

    1. Keep your antivirus updated

    In simple terms, an antivirus works by scanning your machine for malware and helping you restrict its spread.

    Unfortunately, malware is constantly evolving. As these internet nasties grow in number and sophistication, the best defense is to frequently update your antivirus.

    By updating your antivirus, you make sure your system is up-to-speed with newly identified viruses and equipped with the latest tools to remove them.

    2. Hide your IP address

    If you don’t like stalkers knowing where you are physically, chances are you don’t want snoops knowing where you are (or what you’re doing) online.

    Whether you want to access social media while abroad, watch the latest sports online, or just want to conceal your internet activity from your ISP, you can’t go wrong by making a habit of hiding your IP.

    There are many ways to hide your IP address. The safest and most reliable to do this is to use a VPN (more on this later).

    3. Use a strong password

    If you’re still use “Password” as your password in 2017, you should probably stop using the internet (for your own good). Your passwords are like the keys to your apartment. Don’t settle for one that any stranger can guess and replicate.

    There are many techniques for building strong passwords, such as mixing in a variety of letters, numbers, and symbols to using two-factor authentication for additional security. Another avenue to consider is using a password generator to create passwords that cannot be easily cracked via brute force hacking. You may also want to use a password manager to help you store your passwords.

    4. Don’t access confidential information on public networks and machines

    With the prevalence of Wi-Fi, it’s often a temptation to connect to a public network while traveling or working on the go. The same can often be said for using public computers in libraries and airports.

    While it’s not a problem to use public machines and networks for non-private matters, it would be a very bad idea to log into your social media, bank, or work accounts while on these machines/networks. A bugged machine may have keyloggers installed to track what you type, while a rogue network may capture your data and send it to nefarious individuals while injecting malware into your own device.

    5. Beware of cookies

    Cookies were designed to help websites remember visitors, allowing them to provide a more personalized experience to each user. However, they can also be abused to track your online activity and to send you targeted advertisements.

    To protect yourself from malicious cookies, remember to delete any cookies after each browsing session. You can also use a private web browser such as Tor.

    6. Use a VPN

    A VPN is a swiss-army knife for online safety. It hides your IP address (as mentioned above), anonymizes the data you send into the internet, and can even let you access geolocation-specific discounts and content.

    That said, be careful when choosing a VPN provider. Make sure the provider offers a wide range of locations, does not keep user-identifying logs, and is not a free VPN service. Maintaining high quality VPN servers is not a cheap proposition, and if they’re not charging you for it, they’re almost certainly making money by selling your activity to a third party somewhere else.

    The internet remains a wonderful place for productivity, entertainment, and innovation. However, many dangers await the unwary. Remember to follow these practices, exercise common sense whenever you’re unsure, and you’ll be able to enjoy the best of the internet without worry.

Computer Virus Resources: A Big List of Tools and Guides

Computer Virus Resources: A Big List of Tools and Guides

Below you’ll find a handy list of resources that will explain what computer viruses are, how to prevent them, how to get rid of them, and where you can learn more about computer viruses.

Guides About Computer Viruses

If you’re not familiar with computer viruses and what to know more, or you’re wanting to expand your current knowledge, these resources will provide you with in-depth information about them. From how to detect a virus on your computer to what the most common types of viruses are, these guides have all bases covered:

TechTarget.com – To get you started, here’s a handy definition of “computer virus.” You’ll also find some information on the different types of viruses (e.g. macro viruses, file infectors, and overwrite viruses); an intriguing history of computer viruses; and some of the world’s most famous viruses. You might also want to check out their malware guide, which provides you with even more in-depth information.

US-Cert.gov – Produced by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, this information introduces you to viruses and how you can avoid them.

Dummies.com – This resource provides you with the ultimate cheat sheet for tackling computer viruses. It explains how to configure your antivirus software, how to scan for viruses on your computer, and how to operate your computer safely. It also includes a section on what to do if your computer does get a virus and how best to handle this.

LiveScience.com – Discussing the three most common types of computer viruses, this resource delves into trojans, botnets, and scareware. It goes into detail about each of these while also providing you with advice from some industry-leading experts.

Comparitech.com – To tackle computer viruses it’s imperative that you’ve got antivirus software installed on your computer. And this great, jargon-free guide explains why you need antivirus software and what you need to look out for when buying it.

BBC Bitesize – Even though this resource is aimed at kids, it still provides a great overview of what viruses are, what can happen if your computer gets one, and what the most common types of malware are. Perfect for educating the kids on what to look out for when they’re on the computer.

Choosing Tools that Will Protect and Remove Computer Viruses

To help you find the most effective antivirus software for your computer, these resources provide useful advice on what features to look out for:

Comparitech.com – Providing a list of the best antivirus protection for 2017, Comparitech has done all the hard work for you by reviewing each provider in detail. They’ve looked at various criteria, including value for money, effectiveness, and additional features. You can read in-depth reviews on each of these providers before making your purchase.

US-Cert.gov – Here you’ll find some more information about what antivirus software does, how it works, and how it will respond to threats.

SE Labs – Founded by security expert Simon Edwards,  Chairman of the Board of the Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization, this company provides independent testing of antivirus programs. Consumers can sign-up to receive their latest reports here.

Databases About Viruses

To stay alerted to potential threats, you may want to check on these databases which provide the latest real-time updates on existing and emerging threats and vulnerabilities:

WildList.org – WildList Organization International aim to provide comprehensive, timely, and accurate information to product developers and users about computer viruses that are “in the wild.” The list is produced by over 40 recognized volunteers and is free for all to view.

Symantec.com – As a leader in cyber security, this is a great place to visit if you want to hear about the latest threats. You can find up-to-date information about emerging threats, emerging risks, and vulnerabilities.

McAfee.com – On this website you’ll find a list of recent threats, which have been assessed to establish what type of risk they are (i.e. low or high). You can also find a global virus map and a list of recent virus hoaxes.

AVG.com – Learn about the top threats through AVG Threat Labs’ encyclopedia of viruses. Here you can learn more about specific viruses (e.g. Trojan Horse) while also seeing what threats have been detected today and what types of malware have been found.

Additional Resources and Organizations

CERT – If you want to stay up to date with all the latest developments in Internet security, including the most recent computer virus threats, this is your go-to place. Run as part of the Software Engineering Institute, CERT aims to provide cutting-edge information, advice, and training to continually develop and improve cybersecurity.

AAVAR.org – This nonprofit organization is based in Asia and is made up of a number of experts from all over the world. Their aim is to prevent the damage and spread of malicious malware while also raising the awareness of computer viruses to users across the globe.

Apple.com – For Mac users, this is a must-see resource as it provides you with added details on the type of safety that’s built into Macs. It’s also a good place to keep up to date with the latest advancements and whether there are any updates you need to do.

Microsoft.com – Here you can learn about Microsoft’s latest investments, what they’re doing to make their systems safe, and the security methods that are built into their systems. If you’re a business, you can also perform a security risk assessment, which helps you to see the cost implications of a security threat and what measures you need to take to protect your company.

AV-TEST.org – As an independent service provider, AV-TEST carries out research work which enables them to find the latest threats and analyze these before informing customers about their findings. Stay up to date with their latest tests through their website, narrowing your search down according to what device you want to search for – e.g. Android; Windows (business or personal); and MacOS.

VirusBulletin.com – With this publication you can find out the latest techniques, developments, and threats to online security, while also hearing the opinions of industry experts. Virus Bulletin also tests anti-malware software, so you can read about their certification schemes and what these involve.

Antivirus software – an analysis of why you need it and what to look out for

Antivirus software – an analysis of why you need it and what to look out for

In the not-so-distant past, bedroom coders with a passion for mischief created what some would now term ‘works of art’ – computer viruses that announced themselves to the world, often with flashy (for the time) graphics and a penchant for doing some pretty freaky things with the display on your VDU (an old-style cathode ray tube monitor that pre-dated modern flat screens).

Occasionally amusing, often annoying, they were tricky to get rid of back in the late 1980s, primarily because there weren’t many companies offering removal services and there definitely wasn’t an internet, at least not in a form that would be recognisable today.

But things soon changed as companies saw an opportunity to provide a useful service while making a stack of cash on a yearly subscription basis.

Security vendors appeared, offering “computer insurance” in the form of antivirus programs.

Back in the day, those antivirus programs were sent out to subscribers on floppy disk, with updates arriving on further disks every few months or so.

Then, later, as the internet began to take off, updates would be sent weekly, maybe even daily, as the number of viruses began to increase.

It wasn’t every computer user who had to worry about malware in those days – the Apple Mac’s niche status at that time allowed it to fly under the radar and was actually a key selling point in the burgeoning battle with Microsoft and its Windows operating system.

But that was then and this is now: we no longer see viruses that play games with us, or cause text to scroll down the screen – so that means there is no longer any need for antivirus software, right?

Think again.

Why you still need antivirus software

Quite simply, the problem with viruses or, more specifically other forms of malware, has not gone away.

Far from it in fact.

The days when security researchers found a few new viruses every day have long since disappeared – they’re now finding thousands of new threats on a daily basis and most of them are not viruses at all but rather Trojans, designed to steal your data or recruit your PC into a botnet.

Motivated by money rather than art or the progression of technical skills, modern malware is the antithesis of the viruses of days gone by – it doesn’t want to draw attention to itself at all.

Now, we’re not going to try and scare you by saying that means your computer is secretly infected right now – it may or may not be, depending on the security software you may have installed and the way in which you use your machine – but we would say that it is a possibility.

Machines connected to the internet are vulnerable.

Over time, developers have improved the security of operating systems, browsers and routers, but vulnerabilities are still there all the same.

Not only that, the ‘bad guys’ are no longer lone wolves – they’re organised criminals looking to cash in on your identity, gain access to your bank account, borrow your computer’s resources to throw DDoS attacks at hapless victims or send thousands of spam emails out in your name.

Such people are talented, organised and well-funded and it’s no secret that many of them are one step ahead of the ‘good guys’ at all times.

So if you don’t protect your computer, what chance do you have against such bad actors?

What problems can you expect if you don’t take security seriously?

The potential issues posed by malware are vast, simply because of the sheer volume of it being produced each and every day.

That said, most can be categorised into a small band of broader threats.

In the early days of computing the early viruses were often nothing more than an aggravation, playing with displays and showing of the “skillz” of whoever was responsible for the coding.

The more malevolent viruses went another step further though, messing with the master boot record (MBR) on your computer’s hard drive, thereby making it unusable and potentially corrupting the data stored on it.

While such an attack vector is definitely not so common now, it has begat something far more insidious – ransomware – which will lock a hard drive with virtually unbreakable encryption, demanding payment for return of the data stored upon it.

Then, as we have already mentioned, there are Trojans – named after the Trojan horse of legend, used by the Greeks to surreptitiously gain entry to Troy – which secretly hide on your machine, doing as bidden in the background.

Spyware and adware can also be a problem.

Embedding themselves into your browser, these pieces of code watch where you go, watch what you do, slow down your PC and report back to whoever controls them and lead to an invasion of your privacy and the risks associated with having your personal information in the hands of a crook, or an increase in the amount of advertising you seen when surfing the web, targeted or otherwise.

The way in which such malware is delivered has evolved too.

Criminals no longer have to rely upon propagation through floppy diskettes – they can also spread their wares via USB sticks, CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, over local networks, through fake websites, corrupted websites, over WiFi, and many other ways besides.

If you don’t have antivirus software installed, and engage in risky behaviour (ignoring browser security warnings, clicking unknown links in emails, connecting to unknown networks, visiting websites of a certain nature, etc.) then the risk of your machine getting infected is that much higher.

So, you want virus protection?

That’s good to hear!

Hopefully you now realise that antivirus protection is essential.

It’s not a silver bullet – such a thing doesn’t exist in the world of computer security – but it certainly is an ally worth having.

But which program do you go for?

That’s a very good question, and one we’ll be covering in great detail with our growing list of product reviews covering the best antivirus programs and full internet security suites.

It really is worth putting some research time into picking the right program for you because not all antivirus software is created equally.

There are free versions, paid for programs and even online scanners.

Some of them are good, when excellent would be better, some are poor, and some are completely fake.

Others have even been known to cheat the tests run by independent labs.

So how on earth do you pick which antivirus program is the best fit for your needs?

Much will depend on your level of confidence and competence when it comes to computing.

With all the features being crammed into even entry-level antivirus programs these days there is much to confuse the less computer literate among you while the same features could prove to be a key selling point to those who have a fair level of understanding in the IT field.

So, that said, the following points will be more or less pertinent to you, depending on your own personal circumstances:

Ease of use, documentation and support

For many people the ability to pick up an antivirus program and start using it straight away with the minimum of fuss will be a key factor in their decision-making process.

It doesn’t matter how effective a piece of antivirus software is if you can’t use it and installing such a program without setting it up correctly could actually be worse than not having any protection at all, given that you would then have a false sense of security.

And even if you do have some idea of what your PC antivirus program can do, a poor interface could still be intimidating for the average person.

For most people, the best antivirus program is the one that is easy to understand, easily setup and then quite happy to be left running in the background, performing to an acceptable level.

If it’s made to be any more complicated than that it runs the risk of confusing the very person its designed to protect.

That’s why clear instructions are essential.

Alas, the days of programs arriving in physical boxes with printed documentation appear to be a thing of the past, and downloaded security software doesn’t always come with instructions either, so clear and concise instructions on the company’s website or support forums could be essential, as could quality email or telephone support.

Effective protection, low impact on system resources

It goes without saying that ease of installation and use will only get you so far with an antivirus program – once in place it needs to actually get on with the job of protecting you and your system.

If your newly installed protection cannot actually protect you then it isn’t worth having at all.

Therefore, it is essential that you choose an AV program that will get the job done, preferably with the minimum of fuss.

That means a great detection engine, real-time scanning, a frequent update of virus definitions to ensure you don’t fall prey to the latest zero day attack, the ability to isolate suspicious files and other as-yet unidentified potentially malicious code on the fly, and a code base that allows it to go about its business without impacting your computer’s resources to the point that it impacts any work or gaming you may be engaged in at the same time as a scan is going on.

A good communicator

The key to any relationship is good communication and that holds true for your antivirus program too.

While you generally want it act like a Victorian child – seen but not heard – a complete silence should also be a concern.

Instead, the ideal antivirus program will keep you updated on what it is doing but without going overboard and peppering you with a constant stream of messages.

In other words, you want it to run in the background, only reporting when a scan has been completed, something of interest has been discovered, or a virus neutralised.

A range of additional features

Antivirus programs have evolved greatly in recent years and now offer more features than ever before.

For those of you looking out for more than just vanilla antivirus protection, those additional features could be key and may be the difference between plumping for an AV program and a full internet security package.

Some of the more common such features that you may find bolted on to your virus scanner of choice include:

  • unique, dedicated browser for online banking
  • rootkit detection
  • script blocking
  • browser warnings
  • parental controls
  • social network protection
  • email screening
  • anti-phishing protection
  • anti-spyware
  • anti-keylogging features
  • low resource-usage gaming modes
  • PC tune-up facilities

Which, if any, of the above features are important to you will heavily influence the type of antivirus software you choose to go with – while some free programs are competent at basic scanning duties, they often lack the additional benefits conferred by handing over a small amount of cash for your protection.

Of course it’s up to you to choose which is relevant to your needs but we would caution against thinking you can get away without any protection at all – employing some degree of prudence will not only protect your own devices, it will also ensure that you’re not a bad web neighbour, unknowingly collecting malware and passing it onto your family, friends and other contacts.