Let’s start this articles off with a question: When did you do a full virus scan of your PC? For most users the answer would be, “I have an anti-virus program installed and it did not detect anything or alerted me that it caught the virus infection.” Unfortunately, anti-virus programs cannot catch every single infected files that pass through your computer. Those files can lay dormant in your drive waiting for you to set it lose with a double click and depending how fast your anti-virus program can react or even still detect the virus it can be over in a few seconds.
In the old days you had only one type of virus where it went out of its way just to corrupt your data but today data theft is a major business and virus have grown to reflect that. To quickly highlight, you have Trojan Horses that make your computer available to the hacker for remote access whether it is to see and record what you are doing or to utilise your computer as zombie in a botnet attack on another computer system.
Then you have Ransomware or Crypto viruses which are viruses that encrypt your documents, photos even music and video files then alerts you with a message that to regain access to these files again you must paid a certain sum to a certain account there then you are given a password or a key file to decrypt your files. Like with most hostage situations it rarely turn out well.
So what protection should you get? The general rule is: paid is best but free is still good. Nearly all users except professional will end using free AV programs even though they started with paid ones because mostly because they do not want to be hassled by a yearly paid subscription. To cover the wider audience we will focus on free AV programs.
When hunting for a good free AV program a user should consider how good are its detection rates and how much system resources the program uses. For determining how effective the detection rate of an AV program you can check out http://chart.av-comparatives.org/chart1.php for the latest scores.
System resources hogging is not really an issue anymore with current computers being quad core systems with 4GB of RAM, for older systems having your AV program lagging your productivity when it scans data from websites and drives can be very annoying. Cloud Protection is something to look into then when selecting an AV program. AV programs like Avira will send all data to its server to scan for infections leaving practically no workload on your computer. The only disadvantage is that if you lose your internet connection you lose your protection. Another consideration is getting an AV program with a minimal interface and avoid those with a lot of fancy animated menus.
Other ways you can try to keep your computer up and running clean is installing Malwarebytes as a secondary, manual AV scanner. Not only does it detect viruses but Malwarebytes specialises in detecting naughty stuff left over after visiting questionable websites.
Another safety precaution is to get a pop-up blocker extension/plugin for your browser. Some questionable website will try to start a virus infection going with pop-up window of an advert. Don’t forgot that you should at least once a month run your AV programs’ Full Scan Mode for any hidden infections, preferably once a week.
On my personal computer I have 360 Internet Security and Malwarebytes which I set aside about one and half hours for the programs to spend scanning (not at the same time) my drives for infections.
Finally, do not rely on Microsoft Defender and Security Essentials as both programs are no longer really supported by Microsoft even though there are updates for them.
Below is a personal detection test I ran of several popular AV programs with the freshest viruses of the day (Feb 20 – Mar 3 2014) plucked from Malware Tips’ Virus Exchange forum.
You can check out the AVs listed here in action on my YouTube channel ig33ku.