Securing your Desktop – Antivirus Software

Microsoft Security Essentials A/VWith so many different Antivirus Software products available, it is easy to get overwhelmed with choices.  Sometimes, the hardware vendor pre-installs a specific Antivirus Software product.  The problem is that these are usually trial versions that are only valid for a short time period.  If you forget to purchase a subscription, you are completely unprotected.

Any Antivirus Software is better than none at all.  Understand that you are under no obligation to use the Antivirus package pre-installed on your system.  The system manufacturer made the selection of Antivirus vendor based on a financial incentive or revenue share not because it was the best or most cost effective solution for you.

There are three basic considerations in selecting an Antivirus Software package:  Price, Feature Set, and Frequency of Updates.

Free versions of Antivirus software offer basic file level and memory protection.  If the Antivirus program detects a virus on your hard disk drive or malicious program attempting to execute, it will clean and remove the virus.

Paid versions of Antivirus software usually add additional features such as Safe Web Browsing.  They will check the web site name (URL) against a list of known bad sites and help prevent a possible infection by blocking access to the site.

Perhaps the most critical aspect of a Free vs. Paid Antivirus software program is how frequently the definition database that contains the signature patters of known viruses and malicious programs is updated.  Free Antivirus programs usually update once per day and Paid versions update multiple times per day.  Some of the more advanced Paid Antivirus software products support an emergency update mode that is triggered when a widespread outbreak has occurred.  This is especially beneficial for “zero day” viruses, those that appear with no notice and spread quickly via email or that exploit a Security flaw in the computer operating system.

It almost goes without saying that when it comes to support for the Free Antivirus products there really isn’t any.  Support may be available through a Forum where you can ask questions of others, read documentation, and Frequently Asked Questions.   For some Paid products, support is not much better.  Even though you may have Paid for an Antivirus Software product, there may be a separate charge for Support if you want to ask a technical question via email or call and speak with someone.  It is important to read the description of the package you are purchasing and understand exactly what is included with your purchase.

At the bare minimum, take advantage of one of the Free Antivirus programs and if you budget allows, consider a Paid Antivirus program to get more frequent updates and support for removing the virus should one get through.

Purchasing Note:  Many of the Paid versions of Antivirus Software have upsell options that include more than just Antivirus software.  They may include cookie monitors, added Firewall Software, Anti-Spam software, and other more advanced monitoring and alerting tools.   Windows includes a basic firewall and most email providers include Anti-Spam filtering.  Only purchase the tools you actually need.

Popular Free Antivirus Software Programs:

Microsoft Security Essentials – Windows

AVG Free – Windows

Avast Free – Windows or Mac  – Mac

ClamAV – Windows

ClamXav – Mac

Popular Paid Antivirus Software Programs

Vipre Antivirus – Windows

Kaspersky Antivirus – Windows

Trend Micro Antivirus – Windows

McAfee Antivirus – Windows

Norton Antivirus – Windows

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