The Best Antivirus Software of 2020
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Installing antivirus protection on your computer means never having to compromise your security.
Protect your computer from online threats by selecting the right software for your needs.

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Why Do You Need Antivirus Software?

Antivirus software is an essential computer component for anybody that needs to make sure that their system does not suffer irreparable damage due to the presence of viruses or other forms of malware. In fact, the term ‘antivirus’ is something of a misnomer. These days, antivirus solutions are usually capable of clamping down on much more than just viruses—which is a good thing, because the cybercrooks of this world are constantly inventing new ways to thwart regular computer users from taking full advantage of their machines.

With the right antivirus software, you can prevent:

  • Malware
  • Ransomware
  • Spyware
  • Phishing attacks
  • Spam

Most antiviruses will tackle a number of these threat types, but only select providers like Norton and McAfee offer comprehensive protection known in the industry as “Internet Security Suites.”

Internet Security Suites can bring additional protective tools to the table such as:

  • Real-Time Threat Detection
  • Secure VPN
  • Password Manager
  • Identity Theft Protection
  • Encrypted Storage
  • Parental Controls

What Effects Can Viruses Have on Your Computer/Data?

Different types of cyberattack cause different types of damage to a computer system. In fact, the damage that each virus causes is generally unique. This “damage” is known as the virus’s payload. And the payload varies according to the objective of the person making the malicious program.

In general, however, the effect that a virus has tends to depend heavily upon the nature of the system that it is targeting. There are different viruses, for example, for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Additionally, there are server-specific viruses, which are tended to run on web servers and impair the normal operation of infrastructure hosted there. And there are viruses that target desktop computer users.

Some common payloads include:

  • The injection of spam advertising links into websites
  • Encrypting data and extorting the user to pay a sum of money in order to have it released (this is known as ransomware)
  • Spying on the user by tacitly operating their webcam, microphone, or other peripherals. The images or video content captured in this manner could later similarly be used for extortion. (This is known as spyware).
  • The destruction of user data. This can either consist of the virus destroying files or else reformatting the storage media containing the files. The latter is more dangerous: if it succeeds it could result in all the information stored on the drive being destroyed.

How Does Antivirus Software Work?

Antivirus software works by scanning the user’s file system for threats. These days there are 2 commonly employed methodologies.

The first is known as definition-based scanning. This is the model that most people that have been using antivirus software for years are likely to be familiar with. Under this approach, cybersecurity professionals create “definitions” for known threats—much in the same way that Webster defines words. These definitions are compiled into a virus threat database. And that database is continuously updated (and downloaded by antivirus clients). While this model remains effective for trapping the majority of less sophisticated threats, the timeframe between users reporting the virus and the database maintainers codifying it makes this unsuitable for codifying the latest cutting-edge cybersecurity threats that a user might encounter.

For this reason, modern tools also offer real time antivirus detection. These leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and sophisticated heuristic analysis algorithms in order to monitor the operation of programs and services operating on the computer. If their behavior is detected to resemble that of a malicious program, then the antivirus can prevent the program from operating—even if it has not been formally identified yet.

These days, comprehensive antivirus programs offer both tools. So if you’re looking for best in class protection, it is important to find a program that offers both types of protection.

What Extra Antivirus Features are Available?

Although the lines between antivirus and internet security tools are becoming increasingly blurry, they do still exist. Nevertheless, some antivirus products offer additional features that are more commonly found in internet security products. These include:

  • Anti identity theft:

A variety of tools can help minimize the risk that users will fall victim to identity theft. The most important of these is phishing protection. There are various forms of phishing attack, but these typically involve websites impersonating well known legitimate brands. Once users hand over their login credentials, cybercrooks can use these elsewhere to break into accounts and possibly take over the user’s identity. To help prevent this ominous threat, cybersecurity companies maintain databases of known phishing URLs. These are utilized by antiviruses with an anti-phishing capability to flag potential phishing URLs before visitors click into them. These can be built into the software itself or offered as browser extensions which integrate with the main tool.

  • Password Managers

Password managers allow users to store their login credentials in special password vaults. These can themselves be protected within a password so that if a hacker were to break into the system they would not be able to access the user’s saved password. Again, this greatly reduces the likelihood that users will suffer catastrophic identity theft.

  • Parental Controls

If your computer is shared with minors then you might also want to configure parental control settings in order to prevent exposing them to age-inappropriate content. Additionally, most parental control tools these days allow users to configure maximum viewing periods in order to prevent minors from overusing the internet. For infants, cut-off access times around bedtime can also be set up.

  • VPNs

While using a VPN is by no means essential, it can add another level of security by encrypting your traffic and preventing your ISP from being able to see which websites you are accessing as it passes through their data center. If you’re shopping online or using online banking, then tunnelling your traffic through a VPN can be an additional form of protection.

The Best Antivirus Software

The following are some excellent antivirus products—all of which we can strongly recommend.

Norton

Norton is by now a household name in the antivirus and anti-malware space. Norton Antivirus Plus is available for both Windows and MacOS. Its tools include a firewall, cloud backup capability, alongside real time threat protection. If you’re looking to put your money on a safe bet for ensuring well-rounded protection, then Norton is a great option.

Key Features:

  • Avoid unsafe websites
  • Malware and virus scanner
  • Comprehensive parental control features

Norton

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TotalAV

TotalAV includes internet security features and a malware blocker alongside one of the best antivirus engines in the industry—one which has been successfully put through independent benchmarking labs and come out with (mostly) flying colors. Another highly recommended option.

Key Features:

  • Well benchmarked antivirus engine
  • Internet security features
  • Comprehensive malware blocker

TotalAV

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Bullguard

BullGuard’s latest antivirus delivers excellent protection against both viruses and malware. Its triple layered protection systems leverage the power of advanced machine learning to neutralize threats well before they are documented in databases.

Key Features

  • Protection against both viruses and malware
  • Triple-layered AI powered protection
  • Avoid database corruption

bullguard

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Get the Protection You Need

Antiviruses these days do a lot more than just thwart viruses. Consider subscribing to one of our recommended products and get your computer protection up to par.