The digital world is full of dangers, and your antivirus software may not provide all the cover you think.
It’s one thing to understand the need for an antivirus, but what are you protecting yourself from? It’s an important question, because not all antiviruses provide the kind of protection you need. Equally, some threats may not be a big issue for your particular needs in which case a less expensive option may be better.
The threat landscape is constantly evolving. Criminals update their attacks to get around defences. For example, a new threat, termed AV Gater, has succeeded in exploiting a vulnerability in many common antiviruses. One of the ways in which antivirus programmes work is by placing a suspicious file in quarantine. This takes it out of quarantine and returns it to your computer.
The good news is that the attacker has to physically be at your PC to do it, so it might not be a big issue for most home users, but those who have a PC in an office might be more vulnerable.
What to watch out for
So, when you buy an antivirus software you need to think about the latest attacks and make sure it provides. Here are a few of the more common threats.
Virus: These programmes are there to infect your computer and any others they can. They spread like a virus and often arrive on the back of an executable file. When you unknowingly run the file, it triggers for the virus.
Trojan Horse: What worked for the Greeks also works for cyber criminals. This appears to offer a service such as a computer game, but once you downloaded it and run, it delivers its malicious payload.
Spyware: As the name suggests they want to gather information about you and send it to services controlled by hackers.
Worms: They take advantage of vulnerabilities in your operating systems or other pieces of software. For example, many will get in through your web browser.
Rootkit: This is a specialist and growing approach which aims to give hackers control of the device. They might be able to access your system, change settings and install other pieces of software – such as more malware.
Adware: Files get onto your computer and bombard you with advertising making almost every operation a cumbersome ordeal.
Ransomware: It’s one of the fastest growing types of virus – ransomware often comes through an infected email. It takes control of your device and encrypts data. To get it back, the cyber criminals will demand a ransom. Big businesses have been targets of this, and the NHS was briefly shut out of its operating networks earlier in the year. However, they are also targeting individuals. We have much more of our lives contained on our computer, such as photos and important files. How much would you pay to get it back?
Web threats: Your browser is the first line of defence, but it can also be a weakness. A good solution must include a web protection mode which stops you from visiting dodgy sites.
There are things you can do to mitigate your risk, such as being careful about what websites you visit and only downloading files from sources you absolutely trust. If you don’t store too much information on your computer, you might also feel the threat is not as big as might otherwise be the case.
For example, you might have all your files backed up and contain very few photos or videos on your computer. You may only use it for very basic tasks. If so you might ask yourself the question: is an attack going to be that big a deal for me? Would a cheaper and less intrusive antivirus package cover all my needs?
An evolving threat
However, the threat is evolving and it’s becoming ever-more difficult for us to stay safe online. No matter how careful you are, it’s good to have the safety net of an effective antivirus in place.
The best options have an all-inclusive option which will cover most – if not all of these threats. One way or another you do want to see what threats are covered and which are not. One of the biggest problems for computer users is a misguided sense of safety. They have an antivirus software and believe it will catch everything which comes there way.
Staying safe online is all about knowing how well protected you are. For example, if you’re cycling without a helmet you might not take the same risks or go as quickly as you do if you have all the protected gear on. To see a comprehensive list of what’s out there check out our comparisons.