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What to check before you download a free anti virus product

One of the reasons people love the internet is that it’s a great place to score bargains. In fact, you can score some absolutely great stuff for absolutely free. That’s the good news. The bad news is that not all free stuff is great. Some of it is just pumped out to get your details for marketing purposes and some of it is actively malicious and out to trap the unwary. With that in mind, here is a guide to what to check before you download a free anti virus product.

Pro tip - if you’re looking for a free antivirus product for a new (unprotected) computer, do your research from a computer or mobile device which already has an antivirus on it.

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Check that it’s actually meant for your operating system

You should be able to save yourself a bit of time here by searching on your specific operating system, but even so you’ll want to double-check the specifications before you hit the download button. The key point to note here is that malicious or questionable websites will often try to encourage as much traffic as possible their way and then hope that people don’t notice that what they actually end up getting is not what they thought they were getting. For the sake of completeness, this is far from unique to free anti virus products, it’s worth checking in general.

Check that it’s updated regularly

Software updates may be a pain to install, but they’re essential for keeping your computer secure. This is particularly true of free anti virus products. New forms of malicious software are being created all the time, which means that reputable security companies are constantly updating their software to ensure that it continues to provide effective protection as new threats emerge.

Check whether it’s hosted in the cloud or locally

In the old days, before broadband internet went mainstream, the only practical way to update software was to create files which users downloaded and installed on their local PCs. This is still an option, but in many cases, using the cloud is a preferable one and this is particularly true of free anti virus products. The reason for this is that effective free anti virus products need to be able to tap into substantial databases of “malware definitions”. Essentially, these are descriptions of malicious software together with instructions as to what to do about it.

These databases are already really big, to the point where they can even slow down newer/more powerful computers and create noticeable performance issues with budget/slower/older ones. Realistically, they are just going to get bigger and bigger as the volume of malicious software continues to increase. This means that hosting them in the cloud is by far the most sensible option.

Check that it has protection against all forms of malicious software

The term “antivirus” is a legacy from the early days of the internet when viruses really were the only type of malicious software there was. Those days are long gone and, sadly, they are highly unlikely ever to come back. These days, you need protection, not just against viruses, but against a whole range of other threats, including adware, lockware, ransomware and spyware.

You also need to be confident that your free anti virus provider will react quickly to new threats as they emerge, whether that’s “zero-day attacks”, which exploit newly-discovered weaknesses in software, advanced forms of established threats such as “fileless malware”, which, as its name suggests does not need to be hidden in files the way traditional malware does, or hybridized versions of established threats, or, something completely new.

Check whether it uses a sandbox

A sandbox is basically a quarantine area, in which software can be analyzed and, if necessary, treated without the risk of damage to the rest of your computer. In the old days, these were “nice-to-haves”, now they’re being increasingly regarded as essential. Basically, modern malware is becoming increasingly sophisticated with the result that it can be much harder to neutralize it at all, let alone without it causing any (further) damage.

Check if it can block adverts

In addition to developing more ingenious (read dangerous) forms of software, malware creators are also becoming a lot more creative about how they try to spread it. For example, they have developed a strategy called “malvertising” which basically involves buying advertising space on legitimate websites and using it to show adverts which either try to trick the user into clicking on a malicious link or which cause malware to be triggered just by an advert being shown on screen.

Check that it’s from a brand you can trust

This is absolutely essential. You have to be able to rely on your anti virus protection. Click here right now to download Comodo free anti virus and get all the protection you need from one of the most respected brands in cybersecurity.

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