The Best Anti-Virus Software
June 9, 2017
The best anti-virus software is proactive and keeps your computer from getting infected by isolating your system from malicious code.
Anti-virus software that alerts you after your system has been compromised is of little use.
Note: this post was updated February 6, 2018.
In light of the recent negative stories regarding the alleged exploits by Kaspersky Labs, we no longer recommend the use of Kaspersky antivirus software. Granted most casual users have nothing of interest to the Russian government. However knowing that software from Kaspersky could provide a potential backdoor to your system is not a great feeling.
Read more in a article from Wired, Kaspersky, Russia and the antivirus paradox.
If you listen to for example Leo LaPorte (we love um, but he is wrong), of Tech Guy Labs, he recommends desktop users avoid anti-virus software.
His theory is if you keep Windows up to date and avoid opening emails attachments, you’re safe. He also says anti-virus software provides false confidence.
Our first-hand experience is most computers are infected by drive-by downloads, in which a person visits a seemingly innocuous website that has been injected with malicious code.
While you browse the compromised site, the malicious code installs code on your PC, unbeknownst to you.
Several years ago, one of our Windows machines was infected by this exact method. An employee did an image search for a local female radio sportscaster who posed in Playboy Magazine.
Within a very short time, code from the infected site had executed on the local machine and collected a list of FTP logins belonging to several clients.
A short time later sites belonging to our clients became infected and the phones started ringing.
The end result was a rootkit that gave the hacker a backdoor to our system. Because the virus was hidden in the boot loader, it was able to start-up before the anti-virus software.
Once we had determined a root kit had been installed, it was an easy fix, however the damage had already been done.
Free Anti-Virus Software
Many people assume all anti-virus software applications are created equal. This myth is perpetuated by cable companies who offer free anti-virus as part of their service.
Free anti-virus software does work most of the time. But even one infection is one too many.
Would you trust a home security system that works most of the time?
Depending upon the severity, removing a virus could cost you many times the price of a paid anti-virus solution. Not to mention the cost associated with stolen personal data or compromised online credentials.
Recommended Anti-Virus Software
We recommended anti-virus software by either Kaspersky or ESET. Both provide superior protection, without slowing down your system.
Neither of these companies are as well known as Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro or AVG. Our first-hand experience (we have used all the aforementioned anti-viruses) has demonstrated zero infections with Kaspersky or ESET.
Of the two, our personal preference is Kaspersky.
If you do buy Kaspersky look around before you buy. The corporate website is the most expensive place to purchase the anti-virus. Currently a 3 license subscription will run you $59.99.
On Amazon, 3 licenses can be had for as little as $25 a year. Download the software from the Kaspersky site and then go purchase a product key.
Kaspersky provides real-time alerts when you access a URL that is infected. Depending upon your browsing habits, alerts are quite rare. However when you do receive one, you will feel a sense of relief knowing the detected object has been blocked.
In the case of the above alert, Kaspersky detected an object that could not be disinfected (based on disinfect action specified in the settings), and the file was blocked.
You can choose to have Kaspersky delete the file if disinfection fails, however you risk loosing a file to a false positive. False positives are frequent if you make use of PC diagnostic software such as Hiren’s BootCD.
If you are 100% sure of the false positive, instruct Kaspersky to ignore the file.
You won’t find any deals on ESET NOD32. Pricing is very controlled, unless you happen to purchase a product key from an ESET vendor, for example a computer repair shop.
Otherwise, expect to pay $39.99 for a single (one year) license.
Short of downloading and installing the 30 free trial of NOD32, ESET offers a free one-time, online scan of you system.
This is a great tool to see how well your current anti-virus is performing.
Read a full review of ESET by Tom’s Guide.
We don’t recommend the security suites offered by either Kaspersky or ESET. Both tend to offer a host of features that most users don’t need.
Better results can be had by bundling the anti-virus from either Kaspersky or ESET with free standalone software such as Malwarebytes, HiJackThis, and CCleaner.
Keep Windows Updated
If you’re running Windows, make sure at the very least you download the security updates on a regular basis. You can do this by turning on automatic updates within Windows.
Best practice is to set Windows to check for important updates, but you decide when to download and install. Choosing to receive updates in this manner eliminates the risk of you returning only to find new updates were installed which forced a restart.
This method will also prevent you from loosing files you were working on prior to the restart.
Get a Detailed Profile of Your System
One of favorite free tools (both PC and Mac) is Belarc Advisor.
In addition to providing a detailed profile of your existing hardware, Belarc Advisor will also create a profile of installed software, including missing security updates by Microsoft, Adobe, Java, Apple and more.
No anti-virus software will provide you 100% protection.
Keep these simple things in mind and you will reduce the likelihood of infection.
- Don’t open email attachments from people you don’t know
- Save attachments you need and perform a virus scan before opening
- Don’t click on links within emails unless you can determine the exact URL path
- Stay away from porn sites ‒ just like in real life, you will end up with an infection
- Keep anti-virus definitions up-to-date
- Take a regular look at your anti-virus logs ‒ you will gain great insight as to where danger lurks
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