Windows 10 comes with its own security suite that includes Windows Defender Antivirus and threat protection, firewall and network protection, user account protection, and app and browser control.
Windows security is for basic threat protection, which is most suited for home users. For power users and small businesses, it’s important to beef up security by using third-party security apps.
This article presents exactly what an individual might need to take into consideration when choosing antivirus software.
Table of contents
- Windows Defender Antivirus
- Why opt for third-party antivirus software?
Considerations to make when selecting antivirus software
- Combined comprehensive protection
- Detection rate
- Behaviour blocking
- Email scanning
- Download protection
- Automated malware scans
- False positives
- System speed and performance
- Consistently updated protection
- Customer support
- Size of the antivirus software
- Free trial
- Types of antivirus software
- Closing words
Windows Defender Antivirus
Windows Defender Antivirus is a preinstalled security software that comes with Windows 10. This is a cloud-based application that provides a bundle of features with no additional costs. Not only does it scan your device for any threats and vulnerabilities, but it also gets frequent updates through Windows Updates. It also provides protection in other aspects, such as account protection, network security, parental control, etc.
Although the Windows Defender might be sufficient protection for many, some still believe that they might need added security. This might be due to the fact the Defender fails to provide security at every level, even though Microsoft has provided some test scenarios and results.
What does Windows Defender lack?
The Windows Defender antivirus is not equipped to protect our systems through behavioral recognition. Rather, it only blocks malicious content of which it is aware of, that is through the security updates.
Microsoft rolls out updates for its defender through the Windows Update, which comes only once or twice each month. This is a significant gap in which new viruses can emerge and attack your PC.
AV-Comparatives, an antivirus testing company, has ranked Windows Defender as the 11th most efficient antivirus overall, which means that there are more powerful antivirus products out there.
Components of Windows Defender
The Windows Defender now has a pretty clean and easy-to-use layout, thanks to the Windows Settings application. To open Windows Defender, head to the following:
Start Menu -> Settings -> Update and Security -> Windows Security -> Open Windows Security
Windows Defender offers the following settings to be managed by a user:
- Virus & Threat Protection
- Perform quick and deep scans
- Real-time protection
- Cloud-delivered protection
- Automatic feedback to Microsoft
- Tamper protection
- Controlled folder access
- Exclusions to Microsoft Defender Antivirus
- Managing security notifications
- Account protection
- Microsoft account configuration and security optimization
- Dynamic lock settings on the local PC
- Firewall and network protection
- Configure device firewall for different network profiles
- App and browser control
- Reputation-based protection
- Isolated browsing (Requires Microsoft Application Guard)
- Exploit protection
- Device security
- Manage memory integrity
- Device performance and health
- Optimize storage, battery life, applications and software, and Windows services
- Family options
- Manage screen time
- Filter content
- Manage store spending limits
- Keep track of user history
Why opt for third-party antivirus software?
Although Microsoft has been working on the Defender to try and improve it, and it has come a long way, it is still not quite enough for some users. There can be a number of reasons for them to consider any other antivirus software over Windows Defender.
Users may be aware of their credit card usage on the internet and might require added security, such as SSL verification, which the Defender does not provide. Or maybe people need to run their own applications which the defender might be considering as a threat and removes it.
Since Microsoft does not claim responsibility if your system gets bugged with a virus, and there is no support, users might feel more comfortable using an application that provides on-call support and immediate action. There are a number of features that Windows Defender does not yet offer, but are available in a variety of other software.
Using a free version of the antivirus software along with Windows Defender provides an additional layer of security, but does not always work as they can conflict with one another. Hence, paying for a professional antivirus might be a good option if you wish to have better security and threat management while turning the Windows Defender completely off.
Considerations to make when selecting antivirus software
If you have decided to move on from the Windows Defender Antivirus, then you have a lot of homework to do. It is easy to get antivirus software when it is free, but you need to consider what you want to prioritize in terms of protection, especially when you are paying for it.
The following are some important key components and factors that you need to consider before you move ahead to purchase third-party antivirus software:
Combined comprehensive protection
It is crucial that you pick an antivirus software that offers you all kinds of protection, such as when you are browsing on the internet, entering your financial data online, being attacked through the network, blocking malicious content in emails, secure FTP connections, etc. The antivirus must perform all these basic protection tasks before they affect your device.
This protection should be implemented in layers as a fail-safe and must continue to protect your system even if a threat is detected while eliminating it.
The software must be reliable and should not bear any downtime. Some antiviruses stop performing when they start to attack malware. You need to target persistent antivirus software that will not leave its duty to protect the integrity of your computer.
The detection rate of the software should be at least 95 percent of both known and unknown threats combined. The more the better. This means that the software should catch and stop 95 percent of the threats, whether the definitions are not known to the software. This is the characteristic of good antivirus software.
You must opt for software that also supports behavioral blocking. This is especially useful when a virus or a threat which is unknown is detected and blocked by the antivirus simply by detecting its malicious behavior.
This feature is very useful in preventing the data on your hard drive from being lost, encrypted, or even shared through suspicious links or text in an email. An antivirus supporting this will prompt you when a malicious email is detected, preventing your hard drive and your system from being compromised.
Having download protection is another major feature that is a must-have. Antivirus should be able to scan all downloaded material in case of any malicious files that could potentially harm your device.
Automated malware scans
Since manually checking each file and folder for malware isn’t always possible, the antivirus software should scan all websites, downloaded material and external drives automatically, and prompt the user for any actions if required.
Moreover, routine scans of the whole device should also be scheduled using the application to check for any new threats or vulnerabilities.
Unlike Windows Defender, third-party antivirus must be self-aware and not remove any malicious software or script without the user’s approval. If the application flags a software, or part of that software, it will have trouble running as the antivirus will be blocking it. Software that the user knows is legit would then be treated as if it were a threat.
The interface, as well as the usage of the third-party antivirus, must be convenient for every user. If the software requires a tech-savvy person to perform daily routine operations, it must not have very good usability.
The interface must also be comfortable for the user in terms of navigation and performing specific operations. A tricky layout may be confusing for some people, which would eventually lead them away from using it.
System speed and performance
The best practice to perform deep system scans is when the user is away from the computer and not performing any critical tasks, also referred to as the off-hours. This is because scans take up a significant amount of the system resources which makes it the computer relatively slow.
Therefore, pick an antivirus which lets users select a time to perform automated scans, and if not, should only consume a reasonable amount of resources for them to perform other tasks alongside it.
Consistently updated protection
The antivirus must be able to keep up with the constantly changing environment and keep it protected. It should add frequent new definitions of the latest threats.
Having an updated antivirus would increase the integrity of the system by blocking out known vulnerabilities that have been discovered.
Remember to purchase the antivirus which supports your current Operating System, as well as any future OS you may wish to change to, as you would like to continue using your investment for a longer time. Hence, ensure that the antivirus is compatible with your Operating System.
Since everything we discussed up till now is for you to choose the right antivirus software for your device(s), it is equally important to pick the one with a good reputation. You might regret getting cheaper software from an unknown vendor over an expensive one from a reputable firm.
Hope that you do not need to contact customer support, but it is always better to have that option. If the computer gets compromised, you can always get instant support if the antivirus vendor has a customer support department. They can be very useful in guiding you through the steps and precautionary measures in case of an attack.
Size of the antivirus software
Another considerable point that often goes neglected is the complete size of the antivirus software. You would not want to allow this software to take a significant amount of space on your hard drive.
With the passage of time, the size of the software increases due to updates in definition and the software itself. If managed correctly, the size of the software can be kept in control so that it does not get too big for the users.
Considering a free trial before purchasing the software also has a great impact on your final decision. Use the free trial period of the antivirus and make the most of it, explore the options you have, and see if the interface is of your liking, and whether it supports the features which you were looking for.
The price of each antivirus software usually depends on the number of devices you are purchasing the license for, as well as which type you are choosing. There are a number of types of antivirus software, and each vendor has its own price tag.
Selecting the cheapest isn’t always the best decision, as it could compromise on a number of factors such as customer support, SSL protection, automated scans, etc.
Types of antivirus software
The antivirus world is very vast. Not only are there many vendors in the market, but each vendor has a variety of different products to offer. Each type has its own unique features and specializes in its own domain.
There are mainly four categories of antiviruses: free, paid, suites, and premium suites. As you go up the ladder, the software gets more expensive, while offering more features. Let’s see how each of these is different from one another.
Almost every reputable security provider has their own free version of antivirus available. The free antivirus provides the least number of features out of all the different types, but still can be enough for some users.
This includes features like scanning the system for malware, some of which can be automated, added plugins for web browsers, etc. Some of the free versions also support behavioral identification of malware.
This type of antivirus is ideal for individuals who are not keeping sensitive information on their devices, but rather performing day to day operations, such as browsing the internet, exchanging emails, and downloading content off of the internet. However, one must apply common sense while downloading and executing uncertain files while using a free version of antivirus.
You must take into account that the free versions often have ads popping up, or continuously prompt the user to purchase the paid version. Moreover, there is no customer support provided for users with free antivirus. In case of a breach on your device, you would not have any external help from the vendor.
This type of antivirus requires a subscription from the vendor, which can either be monthly, quarterly, or yearly. The paid versions pack more features than the free version, such as behavioral malware detection (standard across all paid versions), parental controls, and a 24/7 call-based customer support. These are distinguished software applications suffixed with a pro or a plus.
They also include features like protection from identity theft, phishing, and online fraud, and a private VPN, all while offering the best overall system performance.
Signature updates are standard for paid customers, which keeps their security definitions up to date. The same cannot be said for the free version as there is no official comment on it yet. Hence, the paid versions are bound to perform better than the free versions in terms of threat and malware detection.
If you are an individual who would like to keep users on their device in check, as well as apply advanced security to your device, a paid version of the antivirus is the way to go. If you perform frequent transactions online through your device, or have saved your Personal Identification Information (PII) on your computer, you can make it more secure by using the provided VPN and make a secure communication tunnel.
The Plus or Pro version of the antivirus will keep your device protected all around, perform deep scans when you are not around and give you the satisfaction of having a secure environment to work on.
An antivirus suite contains multiple domains of security which are usually managed through a single control panel. The suites are paid for and include features like antivirus, anti-spam, parental controls, firewalls, network monitoring and filtering, etc.
These suites are mostly designed for people willing to monitor and maintain multiple devices through a single interface. It is best for people who want to secure all their devices at home or even small offices.
These suites also let you monitor the activity performed on each individual device. Moreover, not only does it provide advanced malware detection, it also offers real-time threat protection on the internet.
These antiviruses are top-of-the-line security software, hence the most expensive ones as well. They are mainly designed for organizations to provide all-around security, such as internal and external network monitoring, resource monitoring, internet security, SSL protection, multi-layer ransomware protection, etc. Some even offer priority customer support, meaning your call will be answered immediately if you ever require help.
These types of suites might be best suited for people who are working with confidential and secret information whose privacy is mandatory. For example, a server containing all the financial information of hundreds of customers needs to be protected with the most sophisticated security protocols, while managing other devices on the network as well.
The premium antivirus suites might be expensive, but are totally worth it, as those who need this kind of advanced security do not afford to lose their credibility.
Choosing antivirus software can be tricky, especially if you are not a tech-savvy person. It is important to know what type of antivirus suits your line of work to provide maximum security at every level. Therefore, it is recommended to look into each type of security application before you proceed to purchase it.
Free antivirus software is sufficient for everyday use, and you can easily change between the different vendors without any expenditure. However, if you are planning to pay for a subscription, it is better to have your homework done.