“Reaper”, the first antivirus software, was created in response to “Creeper” the first computer virus, which was developed back in 1971. Both were experimental projects and both were harmless, but since that day, harmful computer viruses and antivirus programs designed to defend against them, have exploded onto the digital scene and are now an intrinsic part of Internet culture.
Accompanying this growth in the number of computer viruses and antivirus programs has been a growth in the general awareness of computer viruses. Today, most people understand that antivirus software is critical to protecting their computers and private lives. However, with the advent of security-minded operating systems such as Windows 10, which comes with Windows Defender, many people have now begun to wonder ‘are antivirus programs worth it?’.
The simple answer to this question is yes, most definitely. The sad truth is that there are too many hackers out there constantly looking for vulnerabilities in your computer and ways to exploit your data to their gain. And it’s not just viruses we need to guard against; a virus is just one type of threat in the larger malware landscape. To make matters worse, malware attacks are expanding at an alarming rate and are becoming increasingly stealthy and vicious.
Unlike the built-in security that comes with some operating systems, dedicated antivirus programs offer comprehensive protection that guards against existing and emerging threats. They also take a multilevel approach to security, offering a wider range of features to protect your data such as phishing protection, camera protection, VPNs and more.
In contrast, built-in AVs, even if they do offer powerful protection, have a serious weakness in that they don’t offer protection against new and emerging threats, also known as zero-day threats. Moreover, even when the solutions to these new threats are available, built-in security software is often not updated frequently enough to guard against them, leaving your computer exposed. This is why built-in security solutions, while very good, are still considered to be just baseline protection.
Of course, there is also a difference between free versus paid-for antivirus software. Basically, it comes down to your needs. Many free antivirus packages come with pop-up ads that you might find annoying, and typically don’t offer the level of technical support that comes with subscription AV software. On the other hand, the free antivirus are just that – free; and since reputable AV software have only minimal impact on your computer’s performance, there’s really no reason not to at least install a free AV program. Just make sure it has the following features:
- Multiple levels of real-time protection that protects your computer and data against viruses, adware, bots, ransomware, rootkits, spyware, Trojans worms, and network attacks.
- Regularly scheduled updates to make sure the AV’s signature database is up-to-date with the latest virus and malware signatures.
- A child filter that blocks access to sites that are inappropriate for children and webcam protection to keep hackers from accessing your camera.