Six points to check before you buy a computer antivirus program
These days, effective security is not an option. You wouldn’t leave home or your car without locking your door so you shouldn’t leave your computer without a good computer antivirus program. It really is exactly the same principle. Now, there are lots of computer antivirus software on the market, and frankly the quality is variable to put it mildly. With that in mind, here are six points to check before you buy a computer antivirus program.
Check that it’s backed by a reputable brand
In simple terms, your antivirus program is going to be looking after the security of your computer and this means that you need to be able to trust it. In the real world, a lot of criminals will try to pose as legitimate security personnel (or even police) which is why real security personnel always advise that you check credentials and are always happy to provide theirs if asked.
The same principle applies in the digital world. A lot of the "free antivirus programs" you can find online are actually viruses and some of these do a very good job of impersonating legitimate antivirus programs (including legitimate free antivirus). Basically do your research on legitimate brands before you get your new computer and then you’ll know exactly where you want to go to download the antivirus you need.
Check that it deals with malware in general
Viruses used to be the only kind of digital threat there was and, at the current time, they are probably still the most prevalent threat, but now they have been joined by other kinds of digital nasties, such as adware and spyware. These are collectively known as malware, and you need protection against all of them.
Check that malware definitions are regularly and quickly updated
Malware is the collective term for all the programs you want to avoid getting on your computer. Malware definitions are basically descriptions of known malware which an antivirus program (or, more accurately, a security program) uses to identify malware. New forms of malware are being created all the time, which means that malware definitions need to be updated all the time and the quicker they are updated, the quicker users will be protected.
These days, cloud-based antivirus programs are the top standard in computer security as they allow malware definitions to be updated more or less in real time for maximum protection in minimum speed.
Check that it has a sandbox
A sandbox is basically a quarantine area for viruses or suspected viruses in which they can be analyzed and (if necessary) neutralized safely, in other words without any risk to your computer as a whole. This feature is becoming increasingly important as viruses become increasingly sophisticated. In short, virus creators are becoming well aware of the fact that security companies are after them and are developing viruses which fight back in various ways. The most obvious ways are to prevent users from downloading and installing antivirus programs after they have become infected. The less obvious ways are to create viruses which essentially try to trick antivirus programs into thinking that they have been dealt with before coming back to life and springing some nasty surprises. The solution to both issues is to have a robust antivirus program, with a sandbox, installed on your computer before you head off to explore the internet as a whole.
Check that it protects your privacy
Basically you’re looking for a product which says something along the lines of “firewall” or “browsing protection”. What this means in practice is that your antivirus program will essentially put up a digital wall around your computer and act as a security guard for it. In other words, internet traffic will only go through the wall (in either direction) once your firewall has checked it and confirmed that everything is fine.
The main reason it’s important to monitor traffic in both directions is so that the firewall can alert the user when they are about to visit a dangerous website. There are, however, other reasons, for example, a malicious actor may get physical access to a computer and try to use that access to access websites where they can download malware or to install software which will try to make the computer behave in unacceptable ways. It also provides an extra way to catch anything which has slipped in from the outside and is now trying to communicate with a third party.
Check that it has a reasonable price
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