If you're in the market for the best antivirus software then look no further. This list may actually surprise you though - this isn't your grandpa's computer security. We're in the midst of a new age of computer security with clouds, online backups, and other new technologies and that means ever increasingly innovative threats too.
With close to a million new malware programs released each day, you need the type of antivirus software that plows through all the infections and corruption to deliver a powerful computer cleanup. Whether you're an advanced user or just beginning, you'll find something to meet a range of needs and skill levels in my list of the 5 best Internet security programs.
The Best Antivirus Software: What to Consider
Before choosing antivirus software to protect you devices, take these important questions into consideration:
- How simple and easy is the installation?
- What kind of infections does it remove? Malware or viruses or both?
- Do virus scans slow down your computer? How long does it take to scan?
- Can you customize scans?
- Is technical and customer support readily available 24/7 if you have an issue?
- Does it offer phishing protection?
- Do you own a PC or a mac? Viruses are a bigger issue on PCs and some common antivirus software isn't available for Macs.
What Is the Best Internet Security?
One thing I've noticed about antivirus software reviews is that the terms "antivirus software" and "Internet security" are often used interchangeably. That's probably because most programs cover a range of protection needs, addressing issues in both areas. Technically, however, the two terms do differ a bit in literal meaning. Antivirus software is designed to identify and protect your computer from harmful infections like Trojan viruses, worms, and other destructive digital hacks. The best Internet security suite will also provide a comprehensive set of additional protections, such as spam blockers and anti-phishing.
"Be wary of advertisements for 'free' anti-malware trials which promise to clean up your computer. These are often predatory scams which try to steal your personal information or gain access into your sensitive files."
To help you sort out what each term means so you can decide the level of protection that's right for you, I've detailed the most important features of a good antivirus and Internet security suite.
One way to think of a firewall is as a barrier which blocks communication to and from unwanted parties. When a computer is connected to the Internet through a broadband connection, its files immediately become susceptible to unauthorized access because they share the same network. When a firewall is in place, hackers are unable to collect your personal information and files because it checks the source's credentials before granting access to domestic files. Many systems also allow you to customize your firewall settings to block untrustworthy websites. No computer should be in operation without adequate firewall protection.
Anti-malware comes as an integrated feature in most antivirus programs; it detects and removes malicious programing. Worms, viruses, and Trojan horses are all types of malicious software which can damage the inner workings of your device.
Be wary of advertisements for "free" anti-malware trials which promise to clean up your computer. These are often predatory scams which try to steal your personal information or gain access into your sensitive files.
No one likes spam clogging up their inbox. According to SpamLaws.com, a website dedicated to providing consumers with relevant Internet security information, 14.5 billion spam emails are received globally per day. If you have the right antivirus software, consider spam a thing of the past! Anti-spam tools can protect your network and mail from those annoying messages. Email security is of critical importance, especially if you operate your business through the web, conduct banking online or send correspondence with sensitive information.
Anti-phishing software is designed to block websites which trick you into entering your personal information. For example, if you have a PayPal account chances are you have at some point received an email similar to a recent phishing scam, where fraudsters try to lure you into signing into your account through their link. If your antivirus doesn't have an anti-phishing feature, it's not the end of the world. Certain browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome have built-in anti-phishing protection. Moreover, many of the popular email hosts (Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail) have incorporated anti-phishing features within their platform.
When browsing the collection of antivirus software programs on the market, be sure to check the number of licenses it comes with. On average, they'll come with three so that you can protect all of your electronic devices. If you run a business or have a number of computers in your possession, double check to ensure that there are enough licenses in the package. Conversely, if you're only looking to protect your own computer, make sure you're not paying for multiple licenses. Most companies offer a one-PC option.
The Best Antivirus Software
Norton Antivirus Review
- Multiple tools for removing malware
- Blocks outside threats to your computer
- Safety on social networks
- High scores in test labs
- Email scanning
- Only helpful for viruses and malware
- The more protection and security you want, the more you pay
Norton is probably the most familiar name in this group. At $89.99 for 10 licenses, Symantec Norton may be the best value out there, especially considering that it is a cross-platform suite which allows you to use it on multiple devices. Malware detection is where Symantec Norton really shines. When tested, the product detected about 93 percent of malware, which matches Bitdefender for the top score. Phishing protection is another area in which Symantec Norton is top notch.
Malware detection is where Symantec Norton really shines. When tested, the product detects about 93 percent of malware, which matches Bitdefender for the top score. Phishing protection is another area in which Symantec Norton is top notch.
While not quite at the level of Kaspersky, this virus protection software adeptly identifies fraudulent websites and notifies you as soon as you enter a potentially dangerous website.
The program can quickly and quietly clean up all your email accounts once this feature is enabled. Norton incorrectly filed just 0.5 percent of valid emails as spam and missed about 5.6 percent of spam. However, it should be noted that Kaspersky and Bitdefender score a bit higher than Norton in regard to spam detection. Both of these products misfile fewer emails and miss less spam. Symantec Norton does offer a few other helpful features such as Norton Identity Safe, which is essentially a password manager that stores your information and fills out your web forms. In addition, the product also configures your network and Internet permissions for good and bad programs.
Norton destroys known bad programs and also monitors the behavior of new or unknown programs. The program's behavior-based detection system automatically activates if it detects any strange behavior from new or unknown programs.
Bitdefender Antivirus Review
- 24/7 technical support
- Malware blocking and phishing protection
- Secure browser for financial transactions
- Remote management
- OS Rescue doesn't require CD
- Long cleanup time with potential collateral damage
At $59.95 per year and $79.95 for three licenses, Bitdefender is a bargain for its effective suite of antivirus software. Bitdefender protects you from online threats, social media hazards, viruses, spyware, and phishing as well as dangerous attachments in emails and instant messenger chats. Bitdefender is stuffed with features that protect your PC from a multitude of threats.
One of the primary features introduced in the newest version of the product is Bitdefender Central, which is a security hub used for managing multiple devices with the tool installed (Windows, Mac OS X, Android) from a web interface. The second is Ransomware Protection, which prevents hijackers from encrypting and deleting your private data in order to use it as a ransom against you.
Bitdefender's installation process is fast as well. Once installed, Bitdefender gets right to work and a diagnostic scan begins to determine your computer's security status. Once completed, Bitdefender enters its default Autopilot mode. In Autopilot mode, the program silently and constantly scans your computer and browser for threats, and unlike many programs, you'll never notice it. So, for instance, if Bitdefender detects a threat while you're using the computer, it quietly quarantines the threat without any notifications popping up.
Kaspersky Antivirus Review
- Easy to install on any computer, infected or not
- Effective at removing malware
- 100% new threat identification
- Phishing protection
- Scans for insecure settings
- Long scan time
- Pricey, but comes with 3 licenses
Kaspersky Anti-Virus is a well-rounded product that has you covered in all areas, and at $59.99, it is competitively priced. This software protects your PC from viruses, bots, spyware, phishing, malware, and more. Kaspersky's installation process is fast and shouldn't take more than a few minutes. However, you should expect the average scan and cleanup to last about 45 minutes, which is on the longer side.
Malware detection and elimination is one of the areas in which Kaspersky shines. When tested, the product typically detects and blocks about 89 percent of malware on a PC in its first scan. And the product typically eliminates the majority of remaining malware in subsequent scans. You would be hard-pressed to find a superior program for malware outside of those specifically produced to only remove malware.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus also steers users away from phishing websites. When you log on to a fraudulent website designed to log in to your accounts, an alert pops up on your screen alerting you of the risk. If you want anti-virus protection that has you covered in nearly every facet, you can't go wrong with Kaspersky Anti-Virus.
- 30-day money back guarantee
- Frequent special deals and discounts
- Compatible with Windows and Apple Devices
- 24/7 Tech Support
- No free trial
ScanGuard is an award-winning antivirus software, offering advanced security and detection features designed to keep you and your whole family safe. They offer three antivirus products to suit your level of protection. The Essential Antivirus is perfect for one person using a single device. As the cheapest product in ScanGuard's line of antivirus software, it also comes with the least, but most essential, features. You'll find a virus and malware removal, a system scanner, and have access to 24/7 technical support.
The Essential Antivirus is perfect for one person using a single device. As the cheapest product in ScanGuard's line of antivirus software, it also comes with the least, but most essential, features. You'll find a virus and malware removal, a system scanner, and have access to 24/7 technical support. The Pro Antivirus package protects 3 devices, is competitively priced, and offers additional features you won't find in the Essential package such as a Disc Cleaner, Firewall, and Duplicate Removal. Lastly, the Ultimate Antivirus package offers the most premium features--at the highest cost. Coming with the features from the two other products, the Ultimate Antivirus comes with additional PC optimization tools and the best in computer security technology.
A stand-out feature for ScanGuard is that it is designed for smartphones, tablets, and computers. In addition, ScanGuard offers the same features of other antivirus software at the same quality for a much cheaper price. If you ever run into any problems, ScanGuard also offers 24/7 chat support with excellent customer service. The only downside, however, is that they do not offer a free trial at the moment.
- Includes Identity Theft Protection software
- Supports both Windows and Apple devices
- Includes a VPN
- Clean and intuitive interface
- Doesn't provide as many PC Optimization features
Total AV, a relatively new antivirus software, offers a plethora of security features and computer optimization tools that easily rivals the competition. Although it offers powerful antivirus and malware protection, Total AV is continuing to increase a number of features it offers every day.
One of the best things about Total AV is it's clean, easy-to-use and intuitive interface. Upon booting up the program, the Dashboard clearly lays out the different protection and scanning features you have access to, and the results at the end of the scan reveal how many threats were found on your device. The full system and real-time scans will work silently in the background, constantly and consistently checking on potential threats and the overall health of your PC. Results are displayed in a clear and concise format making it easy to understand what issues your computer has and an option to instantly fix the issues discovered.
The free version, albeit useful, is essentially a trial to introduce users to the features of their products. Despite that, the cost of Total AV services is competitive compared against the features and tools other antivirus software companies offer. Lastly, it seems the 'Quick Scan' feature is not as quick as the name implies. Some customers say that the Quick Scan took more that 15-20 minutes.
Finding the Best Internet Security Software for You
Not everyone needs the same level of protection or every advanced feature available today. Here are some other things to take into account when deciding on an Internet security suite, whether you're shopping for a Windows antivirus program, or the best Internet software for Mac.
- Budget: This is obviously a major concern for most home users. The majority of top rated antivirus programs offer free versions which are lighter on features than the paid levels. A free antivirus can be perfectly adequate for some users, such as those who don't bank or shop online and just want basic virus protection. For businesses, a more comprehensive suite of features is more appropriate due to sensitive transactions and data stored on the devices.
- Compatibility: Be sure you're getting the right program for your machine. Mac antivirus software and Windows programs are not typically compatible with the other operating system. In addition, older computers running XP or Vista usually require a different version than the most current release. Make sure your chosen provider offers the right version for your computer.
- Free Trials: Again, the main players in top rated Internet security software typically offer a free trial (although features are sometimes restricted during this period). If you're having trouble deciding on the right protection for your device, a free antivirus trial allows you to test the program out and see if it meets your needs. Taking advantage of this offer allows you to see whether the scan slows your computer down as well as ensure that it addresses your particular areas of concern.
Why You Need the Best Antivirus Software
We live in an incredibly small world, thanks to the Internet. Virtually everyone is exposed to some type of risk via their connection to the World Wide Web. These risks can include damage to your devices, access to personal and financial information, and identity theft. Up to 40% of American households have been affected by computer viruses at some point, but many of those incidents are preventable through the use of a good Internet security program.
If you're having trouble deciding on the right protection for your device, a free antivirus trial allows you to test the program out and see if it meets your needs.
The threat created by access to unprotected computer systems has become so pervasive that the FBI even has a specific website just for reporting cyber-crimes - the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). By choosing - and using - one of the top antivirus programs on my list, you can drastically reduce your chances of ever falling victim to viruses and other types of computer network vulnerabilities.
Advice for Finding the Best Antivirus Software
For most of us, purchasing a good computer is a fairly significant investment. You will often spend over $1,000 on your machine and spend a great deal of time using it either for work or recreation for two or more years. This makes protecting your investment of the utmost importance. Which, in turn, makes selecting the best antivirus software of the utmost importance.
In summary, the top considerations when choosing a good Internet security or antivirus software program include:
- What you can reasonably afford
- Compatibility with your machine
- How long each scan takes
- What features are included (firewalls, anti-spyware, anti-malware, anti-phishing and anti-spam being the primary features you will want to consider).
You should tailor your choice to what you will primarily be using your PC for. If you plan on sending and receiving a large number of emails, anti-spam will likely be one of the most important features for you.Conversely, if you do a lot of online shopping, anti-phishing will likely be most important to you. The key for everyone is finding the most well-rounded product which best addresses your needs.
It's important to take a thorough, realistic account of what those needs are. You may underestimate the importance of tight computer security, but the fact is you could be vulnerable and not even realize it. According to the Pew Research Center's Internet, Science, and Tech division, 21% of Internet users have been the victim of a compromised email or social network account, and an alarming 11% have had vital information stolen such as bank account information and/or credit card or Social Security numbers. I point out these numbers not to scare you but to assure you that installing one of the top antivirus programs will help prevent you from becoming one of these statistics.
Antivirus Software Review Recap
Antivirus software is important today. Having efficient computer security not only gives you peace of mind but it keeps your sensitive information safe, as well as files with strong emotional value such as digital photo albums or long conversations with a friend online. I've done the research and read what customers think in order to save you some time and trouble. After weighing the pros and cons, you can now more easily decide which one is right for you.
Once you choose and install the best antivirus software for your computer, it's the perfect time to protect all of your precious memories and important documents even further by getting the best online backup. While I'm on the subject, are you getting all you can out of your surfing and streaming experience? Check out the best Internet providers.