You’ve read time and again that there is no chance of keeping your devices safe if you don’t have a dedicated antivirus program installed. You’ve even read how antivirus software works, so you understand not just that you need it but why you need it, too.
However, once you started searching for an antivirus solution, you immediately became overwhelmed. There are hundreds of options, all at different price points and all with widely varying features. Which one is right for you?
This guide will help you determine what you need from an antivirus tool, so you can be certain you stay protected against online (and offline) threats.
First, there are a handful of features that you cannot skimp on when it comes to antivirus protection. If a tool doesn’t offer any of the following features, you should immediately search for something else; these should always be at the top of your must-have list:
Antimalware. As it sounds, this feature protects you from various forms of malware. These days, it’s not just viruses; it’s also worms, Trojans, ransomware, cryptojackers and much more. Thus, you need a comprehensive antimalware suite to keep you safe.
Real-time scanning. In the past, antivirus programs performed scheduled scans of your entire device, searching for malicious code. Today, malware acts too quickly for programs to wait around. Real-time scanning allows your antivirus program to actively inspect websites, links, downloads and more for signs of a threat.
Auto clean. As soon as your antivirus program identifies a problem, you want the program to disappear. Outdated antivirus software will merely flag or quarantine the suspected malware, but you should search for a tool that will delete the issue immediately.
Auto updates. Installing updates is one of the most significant security hang-ups for home users. Because updates take processing power, which slows down your device, you are less likely to choose to install an update. That’s why you need automatic updates — they install when you aren’t using your device, so you always enjoy the most up-to-date antivirus protection.
After you can check these off, you can pursue optional features. These should add value, not merely clutter up your security suite, so you should think long and hard about what features you would make good use of. For example, if you have young children, you might require an antivirus tool that has parental controls. If you have a bevy of smart home devices, you might want some kind of network security. You might also discuss your security needs with other members of your household, to ensure that everyone has their needs met.
Unfortunately, antivirus protection is a product for which you get what you pay. That means less expensive options are notably less qualitative than higher-cost programs. There’s a good reason for this: Budget antivirus tools often aren’t developed with great expertise, and they might be slow to update with protections against emerging threats. Meanwhile, more expensive suites have the power and proficiency of major infosec firms, like Norton, Symantec and Trend Micro, so they are sure to provide outstanding security against the latest and greatest types of attack. This is to say that you shouldn’t immediately eliminate paid options; free and low-cost antivirus services probably won’t give you the protection you need.
Fortunately, most paid antivirus tools offer free trials, so you can experiment with different services for a few weeks to find the software you prefer. You should take advantage of your trial period to truly test out the security suite and services to understand whether this is the solution for you. Specifically, you should investigate:
Usability. Are the controls of the antivirus program intuitive? Do you feel comfortable and confident navigating the interface, and do you understand and trust the program? If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” you might want to question whether this is the software for you. The best apps — of any variety, not just security — are user-friendly, and if you can’t use your antivirus tool, it’s as good as useless.
Customer service. At some point, you will probably need assistance with your software — perhaps to add features or fine-tune your settings. For that, you’ll need to contact customer service. Though you might not require customer service during your free trial, it’s a good idea to message or call them to get a sense of how the service works and what it’s like. You might find that service reps are rude, hard to reach or otherwise less-than-ideal — in which case, you can easily move onto your next security suite option.
You need antivirus software in 2019, and you’ll need it for years to come. Fortunately, once you find a trustworthy, usable and well-appointed security tool, you won’t need to look again for some time.