There are a heap of antivirus titles to choose from, but what you should look for?

Cybercrime is big business these days and the methods used by nefarious digital agents are getting ever more sophisticated. Once upon a time, when the internet was but a fresh-faced young whipper-snapper, wearing lumberjack shirts and ripped jeans and listening to music designed specifically to annoy its parents, it was enough to simply have a decent virus scanner to stay secure online.

However, now the internet approaches middle-age (sorry, I promise to abandon this increasingly laboured metaphor soon), its users need far more functionality from their antivirus software. Firewall protection, safe browsing, ransomware protection, safety from third-party monitoring, censorship, and a whole host of privacy issues, are all on the list of features people are looking for.

What type of antivirus software you need will depend on a few different factors. Do you run a Windows or Mac? Do you need it for personal use or for business? Do you want a free package or are you willing to pay? Do you want to be able to try before you buy?

Here are some of the key features you should be looking for in your antivirus software in 2018.

Detection Rates

This is arguably the most important part of choosing appropriate antivirus software, as the detection rate tells you how good the software is at identifying threats to your system. These days there are so many options out there with detection rates over the 95% mark there really is no point choosing anything with less than that.

Avast Free Antivirus, for example, boasts an impressive online detection rate of 99.5%. With one of the main antivirus household names detecting such a high volume of threats with its free product, it’s hard to justify a product which cannot at least match it.

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Layered Protection

While real-time scans of software and files are important facets of antivirus software, these days you want a multi-layered defence system capable of keeping threats at bay from any direction. One way in which modern antivirus software achieves this is with web protection features which can block connections to malicious websites and prevent malware from getting anywhere near your computer.

Panda dome premium is just one example of a great antivirus package that includes enhanced web browsing protection.

SSL Inspection

Over half the websites on the internet have now migrated to the SSL protocol. This is generally regarded as a good thing as it encrypts website content transfers and helps keep data private.

However, the SSL protocol does pose some issues for antivirus software. As modern scans need to read website traffic to help detect threats, the antivirus needs to install a local SSL proxy to simulate website security certificates. Unfortunately, if this procedure is not performed correctly, it can make a website appear to be encrypted and safe when it is not.

An antivirus package which employs DNS based filtering is the best way to avoid issues related to SSL security.

Behaviour Blockers

Any antivirus package worth its salt will have an expansive and constantly updated database of known threats to aid in detection. However, what about zero-day attacks from brand new malware threats which have yet to be documented?

That’s where behaviour blockers come in. Behaviour blockers act as a bulwark against new threats by recognising patterns of malicious activity and intercepting offending material before it can infect your machine.

As an example, Avira Antivirus Pro uses deep-learning algorithms to protect you from the latest threats.

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Privacy

Ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke earlier this year, online privacy has been brought sharply into focus. Users are now more keenly aware of how companies gather and use their data, and demand completely transparent policies on the matter.

Antivirus software is no exception, and, while users are willing to accept a certain amount of their data being used to improve the service, they have little patience for vendors overstepping their remit.

False Positives

Occasionally, even the best antirust packages make mistakes and will erroneously mark a legitimate file or program as malicious and quarantine it accordingly.

While there is certainly an argument to be made for a better safe than sorry approach, false positives can disrupt a user’s day as important programs are walled off and must be manually retrieved.

Avast has an impressive false positive rate of just nine, compared to an industry average of 50. It’s easy to see, then, what sort of false positive ratings you should be looking for when choosing antivirus software for your devices.

System Impact

Some antivirus packages are extremely heavy on system resources and can negatively impact the normal running of your machine. If you notice your system slowing down significantly whenever a scan is running, you may want to consider switching to a less intensive option.

Some pieces of software can also bombard you with many popups and adverts. While a certain amount of this is necessary to inform you of issues, only you will know if it feels excessive. Likewise, if your free antivirus software is constantly bugging you to upgrade or promote other products, it can really put you off. Remember, if you are using a free antivirus, it’s fair enough that you be shown some advertising, but it shouldn’t be too over the top and intrusive.

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Support

Make sure your antivirus is well supported. Have a look at the provider’s website and see if there are good options for getting help if you need it. Lots of antivirus options will have community help on top of professional customer services, so check the forums as well.

With most Norton Security products for example, you can access always-there customer support from dedicated Norton experts.

Final Thoughts

As you can see there are loads of things to consider when choosing antivirus software for your devices. Weigh up all the options and choose the one which is the best fit for you.

And of course, if only the best of the best will do, check out our review of the best premium antivirus bundles.

If you’re looking for business antivirus, there are a few extra things to consider. Make sure to check out our guide to the best business antivirus software.