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antivirus

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antivirus

What is antivirus?

Antivirus software are tools that identify malicious programs on a computer and remove them.

They’re often the first line of defence against hackers trying to compromise a computer.

Simply put, antivirus software is a suite of programs designed to scan your computer’s files and remove any viruses or malicious bugs hiding in your computer’s hard drive.

Antivirus software can perform a range of functions, from scanning multiple files automatically and on a scheduled basis, to scanning one specific file, notifying you if your files have become infected.

Usually, the software will ask you if you want to clean the file, but other programs will take a more robust approach and will remove infected files and malware into a secure quarantine folder, without asking you.

Need help choosing? Check out our review of the 10 best antivirus software

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Back-ups & Passwords

PC or cloud backup helps to keep your computer files safe by backing up your stored data so that it can be recovered if anything were to happen to your device. You should be using a different complex password for each login you have, in order to maintain good internet security. Password managers enable you to generate complex passwords and store them in your own encrypted cloud-based vault. This is also handy if you forget your passwords.

Firewall

A firewall monitors the network traffic to and from your computer when you’re connected to the internet and helps to block suspicious traffic. This protect your files and data from malicious attacks and hackers. 

Parental Control

For those with children, parental control can give you the reassurance that your children are protected from certain online risks. Parental control helps you to see what videos they watch, websites they visit, things they search for, and apps they download. You can also filter content and block certain websites.

VPN

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) gives protection and online privacy when you use a public or shared Wi-Fi network. It may also be able to help you unblock certain streaming services such as Netflix and iPlayer.

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Antivirus features

You want to choose an antivirus software that protects you from viruses, malware, spyware and ransomware. 

These features will protect your private and financial information when you go online.

In addition to this, there are several other features you may want to consider.

Here’s some of the key features that antivirus software may include, so you can help decide what brand is best for you. 

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It’s not easy to find the right antivirus for your company, especially if you’re choosing for a large company with many devices. Here are some of the key factors to keep in mind.

Updates

As mentioned before, hackers are working on new viruses literally day and night. If your antivirus software only gets its list of viruses to watch out for updated once a week, that means it’s basically useless for six days out of seven. Find a company that updates their list of viruses (also called ‘definitions’) as often as possible – and don’t ignore it when it says there are updates available.

Scanning Speed

Scanning for viruses inherently takes time, but some software can do it quicker than others. Check to see if a program offers ‘quick scan’ functionality, which only checks the files most likely to be infected. This will dramatically speed up scan times – though you should still do full scans regularly, just to be safe.

Unobtrusiveness

Some antivirus packages have become infamous over the years for how annoying they can be to normal users. They come with endless pop-ups, warnings and mandatory scans that interrupt your work for no real benefit. The best antivirus is one that stays out of your way. If it becomes too annoying, you’re likely to turn it off or disable it, making it pointless to have it in the first place.

Device & Price

Check the number of devices you can use the antivirus software for. If you only have one PC or device you want to secure, this won’t matter. But for businesses or those of you with a number of different devices, you’ll want to make sure you can protect them all with the software you choose.

Questions?

Antivirus FAQs

Here’s some simple, jargon-free answers.

These terms often get conflated, but it is useful to know the difference.

Malware, short for ‘malicious software’, is any program that’s made to harm other people’s computers.

It’s illegal in almost every country on Earth, and usually used by hackers to steal money or data from people.

Viruses are a particular kind of malware, distinguished by the fact that they automatically spread themselves from one computer to the next, much like real-life viruses.

Other kinds of malware include keyloggers, which secretly track everything you type and send it off to the hackers who installed it.

This is commonly also called ‘spyware’, and is used to steal people’s usernames and passwords.

Also common in recent years is ‘ransomware’, which holds your files hostage.

If you don’t give money to the hackers within a certain amount of time, your files – family photos, vital business documents, or whatever else – get permanently deleted.

Famously, the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017 cost the U.K. National Health Service over £70 million worth of damage.

Although people use the term somewhat loosely (including the companies who sell them), ‘antivirus’ has a specific meaning.

They’re meant for finding and getting rid of viruses and other malware.

In contrast, a firewall is a program that controls how your computer talks with other networks, like the internet.

This can stop malware from getting into your system, or getting out and infecting other people, but it won’t get rid of anything that’s already there.

An adblocker simply removes advertisements online.

They’re often talked about in relation to antivirus software because a good portion of viruses are delivered through ads.

A hacker can buy space on an otherwise legitimate website and use it to infect people, something often called ‘cross-site scripting’ or XSS.

While they aren’t the focus of this guide, getting a good firewall and adblocker can make a big difference in protecting your computer.

It’s easy to think that if you’re careful enough and follow common sense, you won’t get infected with viruses in the first case.

While that might have once been true, viruses today are so sophisticated that it’s nearly impossible to avoid them all.

All you have to do is click on one wrong link in an email or a website, and you might get infected without even realising it.

This is especially true in a business context.

Even if you, personally, are good at avoiding viruses, there will be people on your team who don’t have that same level of skill.

It only takes one slip-up for a computer to get infected, and once it does, it can spread rapidly around a company’s internal network.

Regularly scanning all of your computers with antivirus software is one of the best ways to get rid of viruses or make sure you don’t have any.

While the security and peace of mind they bring makes using antivirus software a no-brainer, particularly in corporate environments, there are some caveats to be aware of.

They can slow your system down

Antivirus scanners aren’t magic. They work exactly how you might expect: they look through every single file on your computer and compare it against a database of known viruses.

Since an average computer contains tens of thousands of files, this can take a long time and seriously slow down your system.

For that reason, it’s best to schedule your scans to happen when nobody will be using the systems, like late at night.

They’re not perfect

Antivirus software is like wearing a seatbelt in a car. It’ll help in the event of a crash, but you can still get seriously hurt.

Hackers and scammers are constantly writing new and more clever programs to try and outsmart the antivirus companies.

In the same way doctors can’t know how to treat an illness until a few people have caught it, antivirus software will always lag slightly behind the newest – and often most dangerous – viruses.

False positives

It’s not uncommon for antivirus software to accidentally flag up files that are completely normal and safe.

This is especially true for any files or program that tries to connect to the internet, as that’s often how viruses spread.

You can always set up a manual ‘whitelist’ for safe files, meaning the antivirus will ignore them, but this can be annoying and tedious.

In addition, multiple pieces of antivirus software don’t work well together. If you try to install two at once, they’ll often conflict and try to get rid of each other.

It’s best to choose just one software package and stick with it.

Detection Rates

To protect your data, you need to ensure your antivirus software has top-notch detection rates.

This is usually the percentage of times the software will detect and remove any malware on your computer and you should consider purchasing software that has a 100% detection rate.

Check out AVG’s antivirus software for one of the most comprehensive virus detection tools on the market. 

Speed Of Scans

You’ll want to know as soon as possible whether you’re computer has been infiltrated by malware so you can quickly remove the threat and secure your device as soon as possible.

That’s why its vital to have a comprehensive yet fast piece of scanning software. Take a look at Avast antivirus software for a fast alternative. 

Value For Money

Getting the best bang for your buck is very important, as the more features you can get for the best price, the more secure you will be online!

Norton 360 packages can provide you with some great features at a fairly affordable price.

Identity Protection Features

Hackers can sometimes gain access to our passwords, email accounts, and other personal information which can be devastating, for example, if you bank online you risk your account not being fully secure if you don’t have password and identity protection features in place.

Usability

We all hate using fiddly and un-navigable websites. It becomes frustrating and you simply won’t get the best out of the content you’re viewing.

Well, it’s the same with antivirus software.

Pick an antivirus software that has great usability, navigability, and isn’t hard to use. Use this page to compare antivirus systems, and decide which one is best for you!

There are two basic features that every piece of antivirus software has: it scans for viruses, and then it removes them.

But almost all of the popular options nowadays come with many more features than that, intended to give you more protection and flexibility in how you secure your system.

Scheduling and automatic scans

Being able to scan for viruses is only useful if you remember to actually do it, and people are often bad at remembering those kinds of menial chores.

That’s why most antivirus software comes with features to schedule automatic scans This can be at certain times of day – midnight, for example, when you know nobody will be using the computer – or on certain actions, like every time you boot up the system.

Although it depends on your company’s setup, a good rule of thumb is to do a scan roughly once a day.

Quarantine

Generally, once a virus has been detected, the antivirus program won’t delete it right away.

Instead, it’ll quarantine it, which means locking it away in a special folder where it can’t do any more harm.

This gives you a chance to look at it and make sure it really is a virus before you delete it. (False positives, though rare, do happen.)

Password managing

One of the big threats about viruses is that they will try to steal your passwords and use them to access your online accounts.

This can result in lost data and theft, so it’s worth keeping your passwords as safe as possible.

Some antivirus software, such as Norton 360 or Kaspersky, come with built-in password managers that make this easier.

They encrypt your passwords when you’re not using them, meaning that even if a hacker got them, they would just appear like gibberish.

To access your details again, you have to remember a special password that undoes the encryption.

That might seem annoying, but the upside is that it’s the only one you have to remember from that point on: the antivirus software can then automatically fill in your details on many websites and programs for you.

Back-ups

Viruses and ransomware are scary because they put our data at risk. It’s even worse from a business perspective, because that data might not even be yours, but your customers’.

Not taking adequate measures to protect it could even count as negligence and get you fined by things like the GDPR.

That’s why backing up important files – making copies of them in safe, remote locations – is essential. Thankfully, many antivirus packages come with this functionality.

Avast, for example, offer a cloud backup plan specifically for businesses, meaning that you won’t have to worry about storage space for your files.

It’s important to keep your backups separate from your normal computers. If your computers get infected, they could spread a virus to the backups, making them useless.

Bundled VPNs (virtual private networks)

If you’ve never heard of a VPN before, consider checking out this VPN guide to learn more about them.

In brief, they’re a way to hide your internet connection from others while still accessing all of the web.

A VPN won’t do anything by itself to stop viruses, but they’re very good at keeping your browsing private, which can help avoid spam emails or other unwanted attention.

That’s why several antivirus packages either come with VPNs or offer deals to get one for cheaper than usual.

They aren’t critical to your computer security, but they’re nice to have and can give some extra peace of mind.

With modern hackers being able to access almost everything on your computer, it’s now more important than ever to protect yourself from the flood of online viruses that threaten your computer. 

Viruses are dangerous to your online security.

We all have personal information on our laptops, and should a virus get into your computer’s main files, you could either lose that information or have it stolen. 

And as the world is going digital, viruses pose a greater threat to our online security.

In 2018, there were over 50.8 billion malware attacks, showing how easy it is for your computer to be infiltrated by a virus. 

Antivirus software can help protect you against these threats. Scanning and removing malicious programs infiltrating your hard drive is essential if you want to stay safe online. 

The best virus software will not only protect you from viruses but other threats and hacks to your computer’s integrity, like Trojan Horses, Spyware, and ransomware. 

To find out more about staying safe online check out our Cyber Security Guide, giving you the best tips and hints on how to stay safe online. 

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Bullguard Premium Protection

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

£69.99

Bullguard Premium Protection

£69.99

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

Bullguard Premium Protection

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

£69.99

Bullguard Internet Security

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

£49.99

Bullguard Internet Security

£49.99

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

Bullguard Internet Security

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

£49.99

Malwarebytes Premium Privacy

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

£69.96

Malwarebytes Premium Privacy

£69.96

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

Malwarebytes Premium Privacy

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

£69.96

Malwarebytes Premium Multiple

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

£69.96

Malwarebytes Premium Multiple

£69.96

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

Malwarebytes Premium Multiple

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

£69.96

Malwarebytes Premium Single

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

£29.99

Malwarebytes Premium Single

£29.99

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

Malwarebytes Premium Single

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

£29.99

heimdal security review

Heimdal Thor Premium

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

£79.95

heimdal security review

Heimdal Thor Premium

£79.95

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices
heimdal security review

Heimdal Thor Premium

  • Enhanced Firewall
  • Antiphishing
  • Scanning
  • Parental Control
  • Devices

£79.95

Top 5 Antivirus

Bullguard Internet Security

3.5/5

£49.99

Antivirus that speeds up games speed.

Pros

  • Speeds up gaming
  • Fast ransomware detection
  • Good level of protection

Cons

  • Limited features
  • Basic plan for 1 device only

Bullguard is a fast, lightweight antivirus with a good level of security, although you may be better off with other providers if you need more features. Read the full review.

Avast Free

4.5/5

Free

An excellent choice of free antivirus software.

Pros

  • Free antivirus
  • Excellent security scores
  • Good bonus features

Cons

  • Can be slow to start-up
  • Free plan personal use only

Free antivirus offering full protection and great features as well as a network security scanner and browser protection. Personal use only for the free plan. Read the full review.

ESET Essential Protection

4.2/5

£29.98

One of the most secure antivirus available.

Pros

  • Excellent security
  • Anti-theft feature
  • Good android app

Cons

  • More expensive than others
  • No app for iPhone

ESET antivirus is one the best antivirus for protecting you from malware, ransomware and phishing scams. Great performance with excellent features. Read the full review.

Norton Antivirus Plus

4.8/5

£14.99

Comprehensive antivirus protection from one of the market leaders in internet security.

Pros

  • 30-day free trial
  • Excellent security features
  • Runs well on your device

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive than others
  • Basic plan for 1 device only

With excellent malware protection scores, Norton offers an excellent antivirus software package, with plans to suit most users. Make use of the free trial.

AVG Free

3.8/5

Free

An alternative to Avast antivirus.

Pros

  • Free antivirus
  • Excellent security features

Cons

  • Can be slow to start-up

AVG antivirus has millions of users globally, and is owned by the same company as Avast. AVG provides a free antivirus with a good selection of features and great results on security tests.