Antivirus protection: What to look for


Here are some things to consider when deciding on a security suite and the best antivirus protection for your needs.

If you don’t already have antivirus protection, you need to keep reading. The digital world can be a dangerous place, with viruses, ransomware, and other malware waiting to infiltrate your devices. Antivirus software is your ally.

Robust security software can help protect your personal information, your financial accounts, your privacy and your identity — and keep your computer, tablet, and smartphone humming. But it’s important to know what to look for if you want a high level of protection.

Here are some things you should consider when deciding on a security suite and the best antivirus protection.

  • What are your needs? – What’s being offered and how will it benefit you? For instance, if you have more than one device, you’ll probably want security software that covers them all.
  • Is customer service top notch? – Does the antivirus solution come with excellent customer support and real-time protection from malware and viruses? This is important because cyberthreats can happen at any time.
  • What added features are available? – Does the antivirus protection software offer features like data backup and parental controls?
  • How does it compare with free antivirus? – What are the differences between free antivirus and paid antivirus protection? For instance, some free options may sell your information to third-party companies and open your devices to advertisements. Bottom line: You probably want trusted antivirus security software to help keep your PC, Mac, and other devices protected.

Key antivirus features

Cyber safety requires a range of protections. Here are some of the must-have antivirus protection features you’ll probably want in your security software.

Real-time protection

Cyberthreats continue to evolve. That’s why it’s important to have a threat response center — identifying the latest cyberthreats — that will act immediately, protecting your devices around the clock. Whatever provider you choose, make sure you have continuous antivirus protection. For example, Norton 360 has a team that monitors malicious code reports from 130 million systems across the Internet.

All features included in security suite

Here are three powerful features: Parental controls, firewalls, and cloud backup.

Parental controls. Do you want to help keep your kids secure during their online activities? Then look for parental control features. These may include content filters that prevent children from visiting websites that are inappropriate for their age. Parental control features may also allow you to keep track of how much time your child spends on the web, and may also allow you to monitor search terms, and social media and messaging-apps they download.

Firewalls. Firewalls offer another type of protection. A smart firewall feature can monitor inbound and outbound network traffic. It helps block unauthorized access to your devices, helping to safeguard private information and financial data.

Cloud backup. Another top security feature to consider? Cloud backup. An automatic backup feature can help protect sensitive data, photos, and other important information by enabling you to back up, store, and recover your computer files.

Universal use: Windows 10, Mac, iPhone, and Android

A good security suite offers broad protection for multiple devices like PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets. It keeps up with your individual needs, knows the risks associated with each device, and offers comprehensive protection for all of your devices.

Malware protection and more

Most antivirus products offer protection from malware, ransomware, spyware, trojans, viruses, phishing attacks, and other online threats. It’s smart to understand what differentiates average antivirus protection software from outstanding protection. Look for awards, reviews, and the technology behind the service. Some companies may even offer a money-back guarantee.

VPN for protecting online activities

A virtual private network — VPN, for short — is another important feature to look for in a security suite. How does a VPN work? You might be on the go and you want to go online in a hotel, coffee shop, or airport. If you access an unsecured public Wi-Fi network, others on the same network could have easy access to your data you send and receive. A VPN gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection.

How does antivirus protection work?

Antivirus is one of multiple layers of protection that work together to help detect and prevent computer viruses and malware from infecting your devices.

A computer virus can infect a computer and spread malicious codes to other devices. Antivirus software provides protection against these threats by scanning for viruses, detecting them, and eradicating them.

Do Macs and Apple products need antivirus?

There’s a misconception that Apple products don’t need antivirus protection. Not so. Cybercriminals can target software and hardware vulnerabilities that affect all devices, whether it’s a Mac, PC, Apple, or Android device.

Macs and Apple products may not be targeted as frequently as Microsoft Windows computers, but cybercriminals can target software and hardware vulnerabilities in various connected products, whether it’s a Mac, PC, Apple, or Android device.

Just like any computer, Macs can be vulnerable to certain viruses, including adware, Trojan horses, macro viruses, and ransomware. For example, Macs have been known to have benign yet annoying pop-up ads. But some adware can be malicious, like the MacDownloader malware, a form of spyware that attempted to steal personal data.

Macs also can be vulnerable to macro viruses — another form of malware capable of creating new files, corrupting data, moving text, and formatting hard drives.

In short, Apple products like the iPhone and Macbook need a comprehensive security software package that provides multiple layers of protection.

What are the risks of not using antivirus protection?

Viruses can infect an unprotected computer within minutes. Cybercriminals can take advantage of vulnerable devices and people to steal personal and financial information, and identities.

Without reliable, up-to-date security software to help protect your devices, cybercriminals may be able to access your devices, and the information and data stored on them. That information might be sold on the dark web or used to commit crimes like identity theft.

That’s not all. There can be many other risks to not having security software. Beyond detecting and removing viruses, antivirus software can also protect against a variety of threats. The list includes a who’s who — or a what’s what — in cyberthreats. That includes a range of malware varieties such as keyloggersTrojan horsesrootkitsspyware, and ransomware. Most security software will scan and quarantine the malicious file.

A built-in antivirus program can offer some protection. For instance, Windows Defender is the antivirus and malware component of Microsoft Windows. Windows Defender is a good defense against traditional antivirus. But it may not be able to protect your devices from more sophisticated malware like ransomware or zero-day attacks.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what the best security software is for your needs. Not having antivirus protection could put your devices and your personal information at risk. But having a trusted antivirus software could help you navigate the internet freely and protect what’s yours.

Antivirus glossary

Adware and spyware

These two types of malware can generate ads and track browsing behavior. Adware and spyware are often embedded in free software, such as weather trackers and screensavers, for example.


This is a form of malware through which cybercriminals mine cryptocurrency on your computer.


Malware is short for malicious software. It’s designed to secretly infiltrate and do harm to your computer and connected devices. Malware can be broadly defined and covers things like computer viruses, spyware, ransomware, worms, and Trojan horses.


Similar to phishing attacks, pharming can manipulate website traffic to redirect you from a legitimate site to a malicious one in order to steal your confidential information.


Phishing occurs when seemingly safe links take you to malicious sites that may gather personal data and login credentials. The links can be found within websites, emails, or ads.


When downloaded, ransomware encrypts and blocks access to your computer files and programs until you pay a fee to restore them. Sometimes paying the fee doesn’t fix the problem, however.


The Trojan horse is a type of malicious code that looks legitimate but isn’t. It attempts to trick you into downloading and executing the code, which can take control of your computer to carry out malicious actions.


A virus is harmful software that replicates itself and spreads to other devices.


The day a security researcher reports the discovery of a new vulnerability to either the technology manufacturer, a security news group, or both. This starts the “time to exploit clock,” which tracks the number of days between the discovery of the vulnerability and the exploitation of it.

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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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