The Best Antivirus Protection for 2021
Is it back to school time again? Yes, toddlers go to kindergarten to learn how to read and socialize. Budding malware coders are improving their scripting skills. Although there isn’t a Malware University, the skill of writing malware, Trojans, and other malicious code is just as valuable (and likely pays more than others). But don’t be discouraged. You don’t have to go back to school to fight back. Make sure your antivirus protection is active on all computers. Also, make sure your protection hasn’t expired. We can help you if you are confused about which product to choose or if your protection has expired. We have reviewed over 40 antivirus programs so that you can choose the one that suits your needs best.
Spyware, Malware, and Adware Protection
Although we call it antivirus, it is unlikely that you will be infected with a computer virus. Malware is all about making money these days, and it’s not easy to spread a virus. Ransomware, data-stealing Trojans, and bots that rent your computer to the bot-herder are all more common. Modern antivirus utilities can deal with rootkits and spyware, as well as ransomware and adware. PCMag has reviewed over 40 commercial antivirus programs, not counting the many -free antivirus tools. We’ve awarded 3.5 stars to several other products and named four Editors Choice products from this vast field. One of the products in this article will fix the problem if you are suffering from malware.
These products provide protection that is beyond what Windows 10 offers. The best free antivirus programs also offer greater protection than Windows 10. Microsoft Windows Defender Security Center has received some excellent scores from independent labs. It was able to earn 3.5 stars due to its combination of excellent lab scores and an outstanding score in our hands-on malware protection test. Naturally, it doesn’t make the list of this collection of commercial antivirus products.
Listen to Antivirus Testing Labs
We take the reports of independent antivirus testing laboratories very seriously. It is a sign of confidence that a product appears in the results. This means that the laboratory considered the product important and the company thought the testing was worth the investment. High scores are important too.
We monitor four labs that release regular reports: SE Labs AV-Test Institute MRG-Effitas and AV-Comparatives. We have developed a system to aggregate their results and give a rating between 0 and 10.
We Test Malware, Spyware and Adware Defenses
To get a feel for the product’s functionality, we also test every product in our hands-on malware protection testing. It can earn up to 10 points depending on how well the product stops malware installation.
The same set of samples is used for our malware protection tests over several months. We test each product against a variety of malware-hosting URLs provided by MRG Effitas to verify its handling. Also, we note how many of the URLs it blocked. All products receive equal credit for blocking access to malicious URLs and for eliminating malware during download.
Some products receive stellar ratings from independent labs but don’t perform as well in our tests. We defer to labs in such cases as they have significantly more resources for testing. Do you want to learn more? For a more detailed explanation of how security software is tested, you can click here.
Multilayered Malware Protection
Antivirus products stand out by offering more than just on-demand scanning. They also offer real-time protection. You can rate URLs you visit, or those that appear in search results using a red-yellow/green color-coding system. Your system may be blocked from connecting to known malware-hosting URLs, or fraudulent (phishing), pages.
The software can have flaws that can affect your security. It is important to keep Windows and other programs updated so that any flaws can be fixed as quickly as possible. Some antivirus products offer a vulnerability scan that can check for all patches and apply any missing ones.
Spyware can come in many forms. From hidden programs that log every keystroke, to Trojans that steal your personal information while masquerading as legitimate programs, spyware comes in many shapes and sizes. While any antivirus program should be able to deal with spyware along with other forms of malware, some antivirus programs include specialized components that are devoted to spyware prevention.
Antivirus software is expected to find and remove bad programs and leave behind good programs. What about unknown programs, programs that it doesn’t recognize as either good or evil? Behavior-based detection may be able to protect you from malware that is so new that researchers have never seen it. This isn’t always a good thing. It is not unusual for behavioral detection systems to flag innocuous behavior that is being performed by legitimate programs.
Whitelisting is another way to deal with unknown programs. Whitelisting is a security system that allows only known good programs to run. Unknown programs are prohibited. Although this mode is not suitable for all situations, it can be very useful. Sandboxing allows unknown programs to run but it blocks them from having full access to your computer. This prevents them permanently from harming themselves. These layers are designed to increase your protection against malware.
Ransomware Protection and Firewalls
Although spam filtering and firewalls are not common features in antivirus software, some of our best products offer them as bonuses. These antivirus products have more features than security suites.
Other bonus features include secure browsers that allow financial transactions, secure deletions of sensitive files, wiping traces and browsing history, credit monitoring, and virtual keyboards to foil keyloggers. Cross-platform protection is also available. We’ve also mentioned application whitelisting, vulnerability scanning, sandboxing, and vulnerability scanning.
More antivirus products are adding modules that specifically target ransomware protection. Some protect files from unauthorized changes. Others monitor suspicious behavior that could indicate malware. Some people even try to reverse the damage. Any additional protection is helpful, given the rapid growth of this scourge.
While your antivirus utility runs in the background, it can’t go beyond the limits of your computer. Your data may be compromised when you connect to the wild, wooly internet. While it is a good idea to stick to HTTPS websites whenever possible, you should also install a Virtual Private Network (or VPN) for complete protection of your data while in transit. We are starting to consider this component as an added feature in antivirus software.
What is the best malware protection?
Which antivirus should be chosen? There are many options. Kaspersky Anti-Virus Plus and Bitdefender Antivirus PLUS consistently score perfect or very close to perfect scores in independent antivirus testing labs. McAfee AntiVirus Plus is a single subscription that allows you to install protection on all of your Windows, Android, and Mac OS devices. Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus has the most unique behavior-based detection technology. These are just four of the top commercial antivirus products we recommend, but there are many other options. You can read the top-rated reviews and make your own decision.