All our advice for choosing an antivirus and understanding their features

Protection against malware, spyware and adware

Summer brings extreme weather conditions that are tough on people and their computers. A power outage caused by a heatwave can damage an aging power supply, as can a power surge caused by lightning. A tornado ? Hopefully you will find your PC intact! There’s not much you can do about this kind of fiasco, but other disasters can be avoided. A strong antivirus can prevent ransomware from turning your documents into mush, defend against a Trojan that might try to steal your data, and stop computer viruses in their tracks. Check your antivirus now, to make sure it hasn’t expired and taken a vacation. If you need a new antivirus, we can help. We’ve put more than 40 antivirus tools through hands-on, real-world testing, detailing their features so you can choose the one that’s best for you.

We call this type of software antivirus, but in reality, you are unlikely to be hit by a real computer virus. These days, malware aims to extort money from users and businesses. Ransomware and data-stealing Trojans are much more common, as are bots that allow their owners to rent your computer for malicious purposes and include them, without your knowledge, in a botnet. Modern antivirus utilities deal with Trojans, rootkits, spyware, adware, ransomware, etc. As noted, ES News has sifted through more than 40 different commercial antivirus utilities, not including many free antivirus tools. Within this broad field, we named four products our Editors’ Choice, honored others with a four-star rating, and gave several others 3.5 stars. If you have malware, one of the products listed in this article should get rid of it in no time.

These commercial products offer good antivirus protection than the basic protection built into Windows 10; The best free antivirus utilities also offer more than just Windows. However, Microsoft Windows Defender Security Center appears to be improving, with very good scores from independent testing labs. The combination of good lab results and an excellent score in our hands-on malware protection test was enough to bump it to 3.5 stars. Naturally, it is not included in this roundup of commercial antivirus products.

Multi-layered malware protection

Antiviruses differentiate themselves by going beyond on-demand scanning and malware protection to offering real-time protection. Some analyze URLs that you visit or that appear in your browser’s search results. Others actively prevent processes on your system from connecting to URLs known to host malware or fraudulent (phishing) pages.

However, these dedicated software are not without defects, and it may happen that these defects directly affect your security. Prudent users ensure that Windows and all programs are updated and fix these defects as soon as possible. The vulnerability analysis offered by some antivirus products makes it possible to verify that all the necessary patches are present, and even to apply those which are missing and considered critical.

Spyware comes in many forms, from hidden programs that record your every keystroke to Trojans that masquerade as valid programs while misusing your personal data. Any antivirus should be able to protect you against spyware, as well as all other types of malware, but some include components that specialize in spyware protection.

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You expect an antivirus to identify and eliminate bad programs, and leave good programs alone. But what about the unknowns, the programs he can’t identify as good or bad? Behavior-based heuristic detection can, in theory, protect you against newer malware that has never been analyzed by security researchers. However, although these are excellent security solutions , heuristic detection is not infallible. It is indeed not uncommon for behavioral detection systems to report numerous harmless behaviors carried out by legitimate programs.

Whitelisting is another approach to the problem of unknown programs. A whitelist-based security system only allows known good programs to run. Unknown programs are prohibited. This mode is not suitable for all situations, but it can be useful. Sandboxing allows unknown programs to run, but it isolates them from full access to your system, so they cannot cause permanent damage. These different additional layers serve to strengthen your protection against malware.

Firewall, ransomware protection, and more

Firewalls and spam filtering aren’t common features included in antivirus software, but some of the best software includes them as a bonus. Some of these antiviruses are more feature-rich than some products sold as security suites.

Other bonus features you’ll find include secure browsers for financial transactions, secure deletion of sensitive files, erasing computer traces and browsing history, credit monitoring, virtual keyboard to thwart keyloggers, cross-platform protection, etc. And of course, we’ve already mentioned sandboxing, vulnerability scanning, and application whitelisting.

More and more antivirus products are adding modules specifically designed for ransomware protection. Some work by preventing unauthorized modifications to protected files. Others monitor suspicious behavior that suggests the presence of malware. Some even aim to reverse the damage. Given the growth of this scourge, any additional protection is beneficial.

Beyond Antivirus: VPN

Your antivirus utility works in the background to prevent you from getting infected with malware, but its capabilities don’t extend beyond the confines of your computer. When you connect to the Internet, you take the risk that your data may be compromised while in transit. Using HTTPS websites when possible can be helpful, but for complete protection of your data in transit, you should install a virtual private network, or VPN. This component is important enough that we are starting to see it included as a bonus feature in some antivirus tools.

What is the best antivirus protection against malware?

Which antivirus to choose? You are spoiled for choice. Kaspersky Anti-Virus and Bitdefender Antivirus Plus consistently achieve perfect or near-perfect scores in independent antivirus testing labs. A single subscription to McAfee AntiVirus Plus lets you install protection on all your Windows, Android, Mac OS, and iOS devices. Thanks to its heuristic behavior-based detection technology, Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus is the smallest antivirus on the market. We named these four products Editors’ Choice for commercial antivirus, but they’re not the only ones worth considering. We strongly encourage you to read user reviews to get a more precise idea of ​​which software best suits your use.