Best antivirus soft­ware

Keep your Win­dows PC safe from spy­ware, Tro­jans, mal­ware, and more. IAN PAUL shows how

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

Antivirus soft­ware ranks nearly as cru­cial as a PC’s op­er­at­ing sys­tem. No matter how care­ful you are, some threats can’t be pre­vented with­out the ad­di­tional help of an antivirus pro­gram – or a full antivirus suite. You could visit your favourite web­site when it’s un­in­ten­tion­ally dis­play­ing ma­li­cious ads. You may ac­ci­den­tally click on a phish­ing email. You could also get caught by a zero-day threat, where an undis­closed bug in Win­dows, your browser, or

an in­stalled pro­gram al­lows hack­ers to in­stall other mal­ware on your ma­chine.

Sure, PC se­cu­rity soft­ware isn’t fool-proof. Antivirus soft­ware of­ten can’t do much to stop zero-day ex­ploits, for ex­am­ple, but it can de­tect when the undis­closed vul­ner­a­bil­ity is used to in­stall other nasty bits on your ma­chine like ran­somware. In gen­eral, the av­er­age user ac­tively us­ing email, click­ing on links, and down­load­ing pro­grams will ben­e­fit from an antivirus suite.

So what should you pick? Our rec­om­mended sug­ges­tions strike a bal­ance be­tween ex­cel­lent pro­tec­tion, a worth­while se­lec­tion of fea­tures, and min­i­mal im­pact on your PC’s per­for­mance.

What to look for

Here are three re­quire­ments an antivirus suite needs:

• High de­tec­tion rate for mal­ware and other threats • Low im­pact on sys­tem re­sources • An easy-to-use in­ter­face

That’s not all to con­sider, how­ever. These days, many se­cu­rity suites come with ex­tras such as a backup ser­vice for your most es­sen­tial files, An­droid apps for mo­bile se­cu­rity, a more ad­vanced fire­wall, fam­ily pro­tec­tion (read: child re­stric­tion) fea­tures, and the right to use the pro­gram on mul­ti­ple PCs. Whether you need those ex­tras de­pends on your per­sonal sit­u­a­tion.

How we test

First, we take a look at the in­ter­face to de­ter­mine how easy or com­pli­cated it is. Does the in­ter­face

make it easy to get at es­sen­tial tools like PC scans and pass­word man­agers, for ex­am­ple, or is ev­ery­thing buried un­der mul­ti­ple clicks? Are there el­e­ments that look like they should be click­able but aren’t? Are alerts in­ter­ac­tive or purely in­for­ma­tional, and does that make sense in con­text?

We also ex­am­ine the fea­tures on of­fer. Ev­ery good antivirus suite should have the ba­sics like scan­ning and real-time pro­tec­tion, but many ven­dors of­fer el­e­ments that go be­yond ba­sic se­cu­rity like pass­word man­agers or fire­walls. We try to dis­cern whether any of these ex­tra fea­tures are par­tic­u­larly use­ful, or just frills that look nice but don’t serve a prac­ti­cal pur­pose.

To test the suite’s de­mand on sys­tem re­sources, we run two bench­marks. The first is PCMark 8’s Work Con­ven­tional test, which sim­u­lates a va­ri­ety of work­loads in­clud­ing edit­ing spread­sheets, brows­ing the web, and run­ning video chat.

We run the bench­mark be­fore the se­cu­rity suite is in­stalled. Then we in­stall the soft­ware, have it run a full scan on our Win­dows 10 test ma­chine, and start a sec­ond run of the bench­mark at the same time. Then we com­pare the over­all scores to see if the de­cline be­tween the two bench­marks is sig­nif­i­cant.

As a harsher stress test, we also use Hand­brake to transcode a video be­fore and after in­stalling the A/V. On most home PCs, this en­cod­ing task uti­lizes 100 per­cent of the CPU. We then com­pare transcod­ing times to see if there’s any sig­nif­i­cant de­cline.

Our test ma­chine is an Acer As­pire E 15 (pic­tured op­po­site) with an Intel Core i3-7100U, 4GB RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. Each se­cu­rity suite is tested on a

clean in­stall of Win­dows 10 Home. As for the antivirus suite’s de­tec­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties, we’ll rely on the opin­ions of se­cu­rity re­searchers ded­i­cated to this task. We’ll take into con­sid­er­a­tion re­ports from out­lets such as A-V Com­par­a­tives, A-V Test and SE Labs.

We’ll also take pric­ing into ac­count and what you get for it. When­ever pos­si­ble we’ll review se­cu­rity suites us­ing a free trial to get a sense of what con­sumers see when they first try out a new prod­uct.

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