We've explained why antivirus software is important for keeping your computer safe while on the Internet, but a question we're sure that you still have for us is "which piece of antivirus software is right for me?" Indeed, there are many different options available. Some of them are free, while others require a paid subscription. Many give you the choice of free or paid service. Generally, though, it comes down to the features that you want. Most free antivirus options will offer good basic protection, while paid subscriptions will offer features such as checking downloads for harmful viruses, automatically identifying and deleting spam and phishing scam emails, and adding an extra layer of protection to your secure online activities.
The following is a list of 5 of the best and most popular antivirus brands.
Named after the nautical term for "stop", this company based in the Czech Republic is notable for having some of the best free antivirus software around. In addition to antivirus and antispyware functions, its other features include a web browser add-on to keep Internet programs from tracking your actions, a virtual backup disk for your computer, and even a system that helps you update any program on your computer! Its paid version has antispam tools and a "firewall" for controlling what programs can access the Internet from your computer, and vice-versa. But if you don't mind the advertisements and newsletters in your email, Avast offers great protection for free.
A German-based Internet security company, Avira has some of the best free antivirus software, and its paid antivirus software is good, too. Avira antivirus software is notable for using cloud computing (see our What is The Cloud article for more on cloud computing) to speed up scans and not take up as much memory or processing power on the computer that it's installed on. The free version comes with just antivirus and antispyware capabilities. The paid upgrade includes an email scanner, network file scanner, an additional web browsing protection system, and a feature that puts notifications on hold when you're playing a game or watching a movie on your computer.
A company formed by Russian computer security expert Eugene Kaspersky (and his ex-wife Natalya), Kaspersky Lab has earned high marks for its antivirus software from independent testers. Its free programs offer good protection from viruses and malware, and some phishing scams. Its paid subscription services, however, are what have really garnered attention, offering advanced forms of spyware protection, filtering of spam emails and online advertisements, and a "firewall" that controls the activities and permissions of certain programs. It has lost marks for its software being somewhat memory-hungry and slowing down computers a bit, but it's definitely one of the safest options around.
Based in Romania, BitDefender has some of the best antivirus software out there today. It's quick to install, easy to use (with a minimal interface and many "set and forget" functions), and provides good protection against many types of viruses and malware. Some of its primary features (which may require a paid upgrade) include a spam filter for your email that learns patterns that are common in spam and phishing scams, a virtual environment to test programs for malware-like functions, and continuous monitoring of programs to see if they start acting like viruses or spyware. Most of BitDefender's praise has gone towards its paid services, though its free ones are said to be pretty good, too.
Another trusted name in Internet security, Trend Micro antivirus software includes several computer protection features. These include virus and spyware scanners and blockers, a hyperlink scanner (to identify hyperlinks that download dangerous files or take you to dangerous websites), an email scanner to block spam and phishing scam attempts, and a system that warns you when you're about to visit a dangerous website. The downside is that most of its core options require a paid subscription, but it does offer some free peripheral computer security tools as well.
Consider switching to one of these antivirus programs to better protect your computer today! Or, if there's another brand of antivirus software that you trust, then let us know about it. Above all, stay vigilant and stay safe on the Internet!
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