You need to take your online security seriously, so you need a top-notch security suite. The problem is, there are so many choices.
McAfee, Kaspersky, Avast, Norton, Panda: Big names all vie for attention.
How do you decide on which to settle for? Here are a few of the questions you need to ask yourself when purchasing anti-virus and anti-malware software.
How Many Devices Need Cover?
It used to be the case that you only needed to worry about security on your home PC, and maybe one at work. No stress over tablets because tablets didn’t exist. Smartphones? Erm, who needs a cell that’s smarter than a Nokia 3310?
But now, security suites cater for all the family, across multiple devices. What’s worse, people assume that everything is automatically covered by a suite.
No, iOS devices aren’t safe. Just because Apple has data encryption as standard, your Mac, for example, is still target for all manner of malicious software, including Remote Access Trojans, ransomware, and other malware. (Even Apple’s encryption isn’t absolute: remember the iCloud leaks that made headlines as ‘Celebgate’? That concern seems to have been addressed, but should nonetheless act as a warning of similar threats.)
Find a package that covers all the devices you need protecting, and any prospective tech purchases. It’s no use buying a suite that doesn’t cover Windows Phones if you’re eying up a new Lumia. Some suites will offer ‘unlimited’ coverage; do you need that, or will a limit of five devices suit your needs? The latter might save you a bit more cash, but if you’re unsure whether you’ll buy a new PC in the next year, for instance, is it worth spending a little extra in order to save more in the long-term?
How Easy Is It To Use?
Simplicity is important, whether you’re a tech expert or wading into the unknown.
If you’re buying in-store, talk to the sales assistants. Which do they recommend, for both efficacy and ease of use? If you’re purchasing online, scout for reviews: plenty can be found on Amazon, many of which will mull over installation, as well as any problems they’ve come up against.
For all that packaging, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ll receive a manual, and a disc. However, for simplicity, anti-virus software typically offers key codes that’ll let you download protection on numerous devices. Others still include a disc, but these will naturally only cover PCs and laptops.
It’s also worth checking whether the company gives sufficient customer support. Do they have a helpline? Once more, check online. Firms often give you a phone number to call when in need of aid, but are they actually any use? Do they answer in quick-time or are you left hanging on your cell phone for an hour? These are the sorts of things reviewers will angrily vent about!
What Protection Do You Already Have?
Everyone needs anti-virus. It fights against malware. Oh, it’ll never be perfect, but at least there are ways to battle against malware yourself. Fortunately, a MakeUseOf poll last year concluded that readers are getting increasingly better at avoiding it – but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not a considerable threat!
Windows knows everyone hankers after anti-virus. That’s why they introduced Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) on installations from 2009’s version of XP. This includes basic protection from various malicious kits like spyware, quietly running in the background with no fuss.
Does it mean you don’t need further third-party security software? Absolutely not. MES was supplanted by Windows Defender, which admittedly is an impressive system and effective enough for most users, but you should still consider upgrading to a third-party suite with more complete protection.
Knowing what protection you’ve already got is a good step towards understanding what else you need. The problem with Defender is also what makes it so user-friendly: there are no nag screens. Great! It won’t hassle you about upgrades or new features. However, that also encourages complacency and ignorance. Unless it finds an issue, you’ll hardly know it’s there; ergo, without investigating, you might not know what’s included in the suite.
Be careful when scouting for security to cover numerous devices: despite claims of protecting iOS, some will only include Macs, as iPhones and iPads are tougher to protect. Indeed, they supposedly cover iDevices, but in actual fact only give you similar encryption and ‘anti-theft’ additions – both of which are installed in iPhones and iPads already! If you don’t have a Mac, nor any Android or Windows phones/phablets, consider whether cover for a plethora of devices is actually required.
Free or Paid-For?
No, don’t sniff at free security suites! Many would argue that free anti-virus software still boasts the same level of protection as paid-for suites, but not everyone agrees. Naturally, there’s variation depending on the company.
As previously mentioned, Windows Defender, for instance, protects thousands of computers completely free, but are you happy to settle for the default, which is surely the target for shed-loads of malware? Indeed, users have kicked up about occasional ineffectiveness, and its AV-TEST score for Windows 8 was terrible. Fortunately, it got better for Windows 10.
If not, plenty of free security suites are available. A serious amount. But users still argue about their detection rates, as well as how some track your browsing history, likely in order to make profit for offering their services for nothing.
Another worry is what free suites don’t offer you. Some, for instance, don’t include a solid firewall, which is vital, so you’ll definitely want to add one!
Yes, if you’re a heavy user, you might want to consider paying for superior protection. Millions do. Nonetheless, it’s worth considering whether a free one would tide you over. And don’t forget that most suites offer you a free trial anyway. (Just beware them automatically billing you if you don’t cancel after the trial.)
What Makes You Feel Secure?
If you’ve stuck with a particular suite for some time, and it makes you feel happier about your protection, that’s fair enough. But it’s always worth looking around and checking out the competition.
How do you make your choice? What’s the most important factor that you consider before buying? Do you simply plump for the best free suite? Let us know how you whittle down your selection.
Image Credits: Cuddling with multiple devices by Jeremy Keith; Tube Helpline by Alexander Baxevanis; Manufactured security by kris krüg; and Security in dictionary by American Advisors Group.