Best PC anti-virus program?

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Aug 282018
 

An annual review by PC World: “Best antivirus: Keep your Windows PC safe from spyware, Trojans, malware, and more” (updated August 27, 2018):

Antivirus software is nearly as crucial as a PC’s operating system. Even if you’re well aware of potential threats and practice extreme caution, some threats just can’t be prevented without the extra help of an AV program—or a full antivirus suite.

You could, for example, visit a website that unintentionally displays malicious ads. Or accidentally click on a phishing email (it happens!). Or get stung by a zero-day threat, where an undisclosed bug in Windows, your browser, or an installed program gives hackers entry to your system.

Read the entire article for a list of all products which were reviewed (with links), but here’s their short list:

ANTIVIRUS SUITE CHEAT SHEET
Our quick-hit recommendations:

  • Best overall antivirus suite: Norton Security Premium[symantec.com]
  • Best budget antivirus suite: AVG Internet Security[avg.com]
  • Best antivirus suite for newcomers: Trend Micro Maximum Security[trendmicro.com]

Paid versions are subscriptions, annually debiting your credit card (unless you disable that setting in your account). And if you only have a single PC, look for a product edition for an appropriate number of devices (rather than a more costly “premium” edition which may cover 5 or 10 devices).

And remember that best practice is to use one of these highly rated security programs and at least the free version of Malwarebytes.

Note that many of these products have mobile editions.

Mac (Apple): Here’s MacWorld’s review for Mac, “Best antivirus for Mac: Protect yourself from malicious software” (September 4, 2018).

Macs may be a far less tempting target for malware and viruses, but they’re not immune from attack. Even if you don’t care about adware or being used as a means to infect users on other platforms, it’s still possible to fall victim to ransomware, password theft, or stolen iPhone backups.

Our quick-hit recommendations:

Note that Malwarebytes also is available for the Mac.

Anti-phishing test results 2017

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Aug 022017
 

If you’re particularly worried about somehow landing on a malicious website while browsing the Internet, then this PC World (August 1, 2017) article “AV-Comparatives’ anti-phishing results for 2017 put Avast, Bitdefender, Fortinet, and Kaspersky on top” may be useful.

In previous posts, I’ve noted PC World’s summaries of test results by the independent computer security test organization AV-Comparatives.

All four passing software packages got through the false alarm test without making a mistake. Bitdefender won the top spot for detecting actual phishing sites with a detection rate of 96 percent. Coming up right behind Bitdefender was Fortinet with a 95 percent detection rate followed by Kaspersky and Avast with 93 and 92 percent detection rates, respectively.

You can check out the full anti-phishing results on AV-Comparatives’ website.

Some of my clients use free anti-virus (AV) programs. Pros and cons.

Should I go free or paid for antivirus? But there isn’t a good answer to that question. It really comes down to what you’re willing to put up with. If you just need basic protection then most free antivirus suites are probably fine.

The best way to use AV-Comparatives’ free vs. paid report is as a reference guide for the 15 services it covers.1

And remember, regardless of your choice for AV, use Malwarebytes Anti-malware also (free or premium version).

 

[1] The report is available in PDF format here.

Adaware Antivirus Free
Avast Free Antivirus
AVG Antivirus Free
Avira Free Antivirus
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
Comodo Internet Security Free
Fortinet FortiClient
Kaspersky Free
McAfee Cloud AV
Microsoft Windows Defender / MSE5
Panda Free Antivirus
Qihoo 360 Total Security Free
Sophos Home Free
Tencent PC Manager
ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall

Rankings of antivirus software 2016

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Feb 082017
 

As in past years, independent antivirus testing houses have published lists of the best antivirus products for 2016. PC World summarized these results in their recent article “The best consumer antivirus products of 2016 are Avira and Norton, test labs say.”

AV-Comparatives released its best antimalware product of 2016 on Tuesday, after AV-Test announced its choice last week. There was the usual dash of controversy, however, as Symantec again declined to submit its Norton product to AV-Comparatives for testing. Otherwise, the winners were clear: AV-Test anointed Norton Security 2016 as providing the best Protection of all consumer antimalware products it tested during 2016. AV-Comparatives named Avira Antivirus Pro 2016 as its best antimalware product of 2016, narrowly edging out Bitdefender and Kaspersky.

See the full article for comparison tables by the two test labs. Or, view/download the complete reports at:

https://www.av-comparatives.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/avc_sum_201612_en.pdf

https://www.av-test.org/en/antivirus/home-windows/

Prevent malware infection — best practices review

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Sep 092016
 

The Malwarebytes Blog recently discussed “10 easy ways to prevent malware infection” — for your PC, Mac, or mobile device. Read the article for the complete text. Here’s the summary below.

Protect vulnerabilities: Update your operating system, browsers, and plugins; Enable click-to-play plugins; Remove software you don’t use (especially legacy programs).

Watch out for social engineering: Read emails with an eagle eye; Do not call fake tech support numbers; Do not believe the cold callers.

Practice safe browsing: Use strong passwords and/or password managers; Make sure you’re on a secure connection; Log out of websites after you’re done.

Layer your security: Use firewall, antivirus, anti-malware, and anti-exploit technology.

Aug 262015
 

Now that you’ve upgraded to Windows 10, you might want to review what computer security apps (programs, software) you’re using. If you’ve followed my blog, you already checked that your previous anti-virus / anti-malware apps are running okay. And you’re also using two apps: a top branded app and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (free or premium).

Just because a security app came pre-installed on your PC does not mean that it’s the best one for you. At the very least, check that it’s one of the top choices in independent reviews. And if your anti-virus subscription is expiring, it might be time to try something else. (And if you’ve got auto-renew enabled, check your credit card bill, eh.)

Each year I revisit this topic — what’s the best anti-virus app (PC security suite)? I’ve installed several of the top products on different PCs. I generally don’t use the free versions, although many of my clients do. All are annual subscriptions. Some subscriptions (licenses) allow you to install the product on more than one PC and on your mobile devices.

None of theses products are perfect. Each has its pros and cons. All generally have a crisp design using the “traffic light” red-yellow-green color scheme and large buttons. Some allow you to schedule automatic scans; others use “real-time protection” to continuously monitor activities on your PC without the need / ability to schedule scans. Some make it easy to check scan reports; others require several clicks to get to reports (which vary in value).

Computer security companies appear to have concluded that the typical consumer just wants to “set and forget” anti-virus apps, trusting the factory settings and trusting that malware will be detected and removed automatically. As a result, access to technical details has been increasingly reduced or hidden. As a design philosophy, this approach is much like you hiring one or more security guards for your home or business. You assume guards will keep their “bad guys” lists up-to-date, as well as attend ongoing training classes for their security skills. “Handy guard” version 1.0, 2.0, etc. And they only bother you when something exceptional occurs.

Well, even the most trusted guards and butlers may have a bad day or experience a lapse in judgment. A “set it and forget it” approach can be flawed. (Completely delegating or outsourcing responsibility has its limits, eh.) That’s why I recommend two security apps, the second being Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, which is exceptional at detecting unwanted items that other branded apps do not.

Anyway, PC World’s recent “The quick and easy way to find the best antivirus software” article may help with your choice.

It’s enough to make your head spin, but there’s a really easy way to figure out which antivirus program is right for you. An independent testing organization called AV-Test spends its time figuring out the best antivirus programs for Windows, Mac, and Android users.

The company publishes its results a few times a year, and for Windows users it breaks down results by operating system version. AV-Test has yet to publish any results for Windows 10 since the latest report came out in June, but you can probably rely on the Windows 8.1 results for now.

Oh, another tip — if the app is available on Amazon.com, you might want to read the customer reviews as a reality check.

Rankings of antivirus software

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Oct 022014
 

PC World’s September 30, 2014, “Free is good: No-cost Panda Software tops AV-Test’s rankings of antivirus software” article summarized rankings for antivirus software by AV-test.org and AV-comparatives.org.

Antivirus suites are only as good as their latest tests. And in AV-test.org’s latest roundup for July and August, the usual suspects—BitDefender, Kaspersky, McAfee, and Symantec—came out on top.

There are two major [independent] test houses that periodically evaluate major antivirus suites and Internet security services: AV-test and AV-comparatives.org. AV-comparatives.org, which recently published its own August rankings, also treats Microsoft as the baseline, claiming that it caught only 85.5 percent of the antimalware samples it was tested against.

If you’re using Windows Defender (or Microsoft Security Essentials in Windows 7) or considering whether to renew your subscription for the computer security program that came with your PC, then you might want to read this article.

Also note AV-test.org’s Repair Award for 2014:

In a rigorous 10-month test, AV-TEST found out which antivirus application and which clean-up tool are most capable of cleaning up and repairing Windows systems after a malware attack. The REPAIR AWARD 2014 goes to Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free and to the Kaspersky Virus Removal Tool.

Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) — deceptive, insidious malware

 Computer, Research  Comments Off on Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) — deceptive, insidious malware
Aug 192014
 

This year I’ve seen more and more Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) creep onto some of my clients’ PCs. Sometimes their anti-virus programs detect these objects; but more often than not, I’ve installed the free version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (MWB), which has proved extremely useful at detecting and removing PUPs.

Here’s a link which describes MWB’s PUP criteria — a list of bad behaviors.

What has surprised me is that most of these unwanted objects were repeatedly from the same companies. The overt “damage” varied from annoyance to dysfunction. These PUPs “hijacked” all the Web browsers (for example, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome) by resetting the home page, changing the search engine, and installing Add-On’s or Browser Helper Objects such as toolbars (sometimes from other, quasi-legitimate marketing companies). Sometimes unwanted Adware / Scareware pop-up’s were displayed. Recently, however, these infections even blocked browser access to Web pages on a client’s PC, although his Internet access and service were working okay otherwise.

The potential personal risk is even more insidious. PUPs may install (bundle) other undeclared PUPs. And by hijacking your Web browser, some PUPs can return search results (or send you directly) to malicious sites where malware is immediately injected on your computer — “drive-by installation” without you doing anything. My research also found that browser hijacking can capture sensitive private data, thereby possibly compromising your identity.

Whether originating from overly aggressive marketing efforts or malware attacks using techniques of aggressive marketers, most of these scams start by hacking your head, not your computer. Such scams may present themselves at your door, on your phone, or in your email inbox. Be wary of alarmist messages claiming that one of your accounts will be disabled if you don’t click on a link in the message or open an attachment. Misrepresentations, deceptions, or spoofs may appear to be from someone you know as well.

And watch out for those tiny, pre-checked “foistware” boxes which even large, successful, legitimate companies use as “optional” installs for their freeware programs.

If you’re interested in reading more about PUPs, here’a a link to a 2005 article (PDF document) by McAfee: Potentially Unwanted Programs – Spyware and Adware.

PC Malware Protection – what’s the best security app?

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Jan 302014
 

Similar to 2013’s security software review (see Best PC Internet Security Product?), PC World’s “Security Showdown 2014” article reviewed the current 2014 versions of 10 popular security suite applications / programs:

  • Kaspersky Internet Security 2014
  • Symantec Norton Internet Security 2014
  • McAfee Internet Security 2014
  • F-Secure Internet Security 2014
  • Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2014
  • Eset Smart Security 7
  • AVG Internet Security 2014
  • Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete
  • Avast Internet Security 2014
  • Vipre Internet Security 2014

Free programs will take you only so far in protecting against viruses, malware, ransomware, especially now that phones and tablets are as commonly targeted as PCs. Many suites promise to protect you, but only a few offer comprehensive security with minimal hassle.

Key factors evaluated were: interface and overall user-friendliness, Windows 8 integration, impact on system performance (so-called “footprint”), and known and “zero-day” malware detection (blocking).

If you’re using a free anti-virus product on an older PC, note the comparisons to Microsoft’s free Microsoft Security Essentials. However, there was no mention of Windows 8’s built-in Windows Defender, which replaced Microsoft Security Essentials. And I am puzzled why there wasn’t any comparison of malware removal ability.

Phishing Attacks August 2013

 Computer, News  Comments Off on Phishing Attacks August 2013
Sep 242013
 

PC World summarized a Kaspersky Lab’s study that noted:

Spam volumes took a usual seasonal drop in August, but phishing spiked, including a noticeable interest in hijacking Apple accounts.

This article may be viewed at: www.pcworld.com/article/2049287/apple-is-a-tempting-phishing-target-for-scammers.html#tk.rss_all

Of particular note was the resurgence of some old malware which infects your email contact list. Phishing attacks continued as well — email scams purportedly from a company which you have an account with, claiming that your account requires action by clicking on a link.

Best Mac Anti-Virus?

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Feb 012013
 

Although malware threats to the Mac have been minimal compared to the PC, for those desiring additional protection there are choices. Topher Kessler (CNET MacFixIt) recently commented on an analysis of the most common anti-virus products.

The antivirus tools used in the tests included a number of free and paid scanner packages from Avast, VirusBarrier, Sophos, Dr. Web, ESET, Kaspersky, F-Secure, ClamXav, Norton, MacKeeper, and its included Avira engine, among others.

See this link for more information: Popular security utilities for OS X put to the test

Jan 282013
 

So, what’s the best Internet Security product for your PC? There’s no “one size fits all” answer. Perhaps your new PC included a bundled anti-virus program and you’re wondering whether to activate and use it or get another one (after uninstalling the current program). Perhaps the subscription for your current anti-virus product expired and you’re wondering whether to renew. Perhaps you know people who are using other products or free versions.

Whatever the reason, each new year brings new releases of anti-virus and Internet Security programs. There are many choices. PC World reviewed 9 Internet Security suites: F-Secure Internet Security 2013, Norton Internet Security 2013, Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security 2013, Bitdefender Internet Security 2013, Kaspersky Internet Security 2013, McAfee Internet Security 2013, G Data InternetSecurity 2013, AVG Internet Security 2013, Avira Internet Security 2013.

Notably absent in PC World’s list were Microsoft’s Windows Defender, GFI’s Vipre, Panda’s, etc.

Key factors in choosing a product are: ease of use, detection, removal, scan speed, and impact on computer performance. Prices range from $35 – $70 per year. Some licenses cover multiple computers.

Apr 102012
 

This MacWorld article “What you need to know about the Flashback trojan” provides an overview of this malware and the associated risk.

Flashback is the name for a malicious software program discovered in September 2011 that tried to trick users into installing it by masquerading as an installer for Adobe Flash.

Cnet’s MacFixIt followed up with several articles on this malware, discussing how to check your computer and what to do next:

Web tool checks if your Mac is Flashback-free

How to reinstall OS X after malware infection

How to remove the Flashback malware from OS X

Mac Flashback malware: What it is and how to get rid of it (FAQ)

email hacking and spoofing

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Jul 282011
 

The latest issue of Vipre Security News contains some articles on email spoofing and what to do if your email account is hijacked.

… email spoofing is the forgery of an email so it appears to be coming from someone other than the actual source. Spammers often use spoofing to get folks to open and potentially respond to their missives. Then there are those unfortunate folks who have seen their email accounts hijacked by hackers and taken over for nefarious purposes.

Email spoofers want you to look at their emails, download malicious software, or click on things you should not be clicking on and taking you places you don’t want to go.

Apple Security Update and File Quarantine

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Jun 022011
 

ars technica writes, “The Security Update 2011-003 that Apple released on Tuesday directly addressed the Mac Defender malware threat in two ways: it changed the way malware files are detected by enabling automatic daily updates, and included code to remove at least two of its variants.”

The article further discusses Apple’s response to a growing malware threat.

May 252011
 

Apple posted this article regarding:

A recent phishing scam has targeted Mac users by redirecting them from legitimate websites to fake websites which tell them that their computer is infected with a virus. The user is then offered Mac Defender “anti-virus” software to solve the issue.

And MacWorld writes:

Online crime falls mostly into four categories: [1] self-spreading malware (like viruses); [2] malware that attacks vulnerable Web browsers when you visit a site (drive-by attacks); [3] malware that tricks you into installing it (like Mac Defender); and [4] online scams and Web attacks that don’t hack your computer (eBay scams, phishing, search-result poisoning, and so on). Macs are still unlikely to see the first or fully-automated versions of the second. Mac users have always faced the fourth. But as our numbers grow, it’s only natural we will see more of the third.

Also, MacWorld notes, “Intego on Wednesday warned Mac users that a new variant of the Mac Defender Trojan horse doesn’t require that you provide an administrator password during the installation process.”