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Computer Security Software [TOP]


We're here to help you find the antivirus software that best fits your needs. These picks of the best antivirus programs are a combination of recommendations from independent third-party labs AV-Test, AV-Comparatives and SE Labs, as well as CNET's own anecdotal hands-on testing.




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Note that antivirus software is only one piece of the cybersecurity puzzle. Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated, and the more steps you take to lock down your online security, the safer you'll be. A secure virtual private network can help protect your internet privacy, and a password manager will help you create and keep track of more secure login credentials. These tools are all essential in protecting your personal information.


Whether you're looking for free antivirus protection or are willing to pay for a program that offers more security features, we have you covered. Here's where to start when looking for the best antivirus software for your specific needs.


Honestly, if you practice safe computing -- you keep your software up to date, you use strong passwords (with the help of a password manager), you steer clear of unexpected emails and you don't click suspicious links that may be phishing attempts -- you probably can avoid zero-day attacks and ransomware attacks. And with the free Microsoft Defender Antivirus software running on Windows 10, you have a malware protection safety net if you do let your guard down. In fact, it is one of the best antivirus software options.


For a long time, Norton Security -- now called NortonLifeLock, and no longer part of Symantec -- has earned high marks from AV-Test, AV Comparatives and SE Labs for virus and malware detection. Norton antivirus provides industry-leading security software for PC, Mac and mobile devices. Their products include Antivirus Plus, Norton Secure VPN, Norton 360 for Gamers, Norton 360 with LifeLock Select and more. A five-device subscription for Norton 360 with LifeLock Select is normally $180 per year, but you can get your first year for $80 off. In addition to malware and virus protection for your computer and mobile device, this antivirus suite provides 100GB of backup to the cloud, safe-browsing tools, a secure VPN, password manager, parental controls and LifeLock identity theft protection and fraud alert. While not all of those services are necessarily best in their respective class, getting them all in one package is a compelling option.


If you'd like to take a step up in securing your PC without taxing your wallet, it's hard to beat Bitdefender's free antivirus software for Windows 10 and 11. The Windows security software offers real-time monitoring for viruses, malware, spyware and ransomware protection. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition is easy to set up and stays out of your way until you need it. And the protection this antivirus product offers is solid. Bitdefender antivirus software consistently earns top marks for its antivirus protection and usability from the respected AV-Test independent testing lab. The free antivirus version covers one Windows PC. For broader protection, you can choose Bitdefender Total Security or Bitdefender Antivirus Plus. The subscription antivirus suite lets you protect five devices (Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android), set up parental controls on a kid's computer and run a VPN.


Malwarebytes does protect your PC from a virus or malware attack, scoring reasonably well in recent independent testing for guarding against malware threats. But that's not really what Malwarebytes is known for. If you find yourself in trouble, the go-to disinfectant for many is Malwarebytes. You can get protection and disinfection for one device for $34 a year, regularly $45. To cover five devices -- any combination of Windows, MacOS and Android -- it's $80 for a year of antivirus software. To get the antivirus company's free antivirus version, download this trial version, which "downgrades" to a no-fee on-demand cleaner with fewer features that detects and removes viruses and malware when you run an on-demand antivirus scan after 14 days.


It feels like McAfee Antivirus has been around forever, first on its own in the '80s, then as part of Intel starting in 2010, and then again on its own when Intel spun it off in 2017. And McAfee Total Protection has been around forever because quarter after quarter it creates solid, modern antivirus software that protects your PC. (In recent evaluations by AV-Test, it had high scores on both protection and performance.) McAfee Total Protection guards devices against viruses and offers ransomware protection, wards off malicious websites and includes a password manager for $30 (usually $90) for the first year. If you agree to auto-renew your antivirus suite subscription, you get access to McAfee ID Theft Protection Essentials, which monitors for ID fraud.


Maybe this antivirus provider isn't as well known to consumers because of its focus on enterprise security, Trend Micro antivirus security quietly brings its business expertise to the home with its Trend Micro Maximum Security tools. Trend Micro's software earns high marks from AV-Test -- consistently scoring well for detecting zero-day attacks and widespread viruses and malware. And Trend Micro does a good job of not taxing system resources. Trend Micro's 10-device subscription for computers and mobile devices is $130, but discounted currently at $60.


Test after test, Avast Antivirus for Windows performs well for malware detection with options ranging from Avast free antivirus software to Avast Premium Security. And we've included its antivirus in our list of recommended security app options before. But Avast was in the news for several months for its non-antivirus business, so we looked at the company, specifically reports at the end of 2019 that Avast allegedly collected user data with its browser plug-ins and antivirus software and then sold data it collected through its Jumpshot subsidiary in early 2020.


Those reports followed another in 2019 from Avast that its internal network was breached, possibly to insert malware into its CCleaner software, similar to an earlier CCleaner hack that occurred prior to Avast's acquiring the Windows utility.


Avast started saying the right things about taking its customers' privacy seriously, but it only came to that point after reacting to investigative reporting that revealed the Jumpshot practices. (The CCleaner revelations, while concerning, were self-disclosed, which is important to building user trust.) We hope Avast's more privacy-friendly policies mean that there will be no further Jumpshot-style activities and that it returns to glory as one of the best antivirus software options. In the meantime, we'd recommend using one of the many other solid choices in this realm (listed above).


Based in Moscow, Kaspersky Lab has for years produced some of the best antivirus software for business antivirus needs and home customers. But in 2017 the US government prohibited Kaspersky security cloud software on federal government computers because of alleged ties between Kaspersky and the Russian government.


In the end, even though no one has ever publicly produced a "smoking gun" linking the company to Russian intrigue, we think any of the options listed above is a safer bet. And if you are a US government employee or work with the federal government, you'll want to steer clear of Kaspersky internet security products -- and perhaps use one of the antivirus software products mentioned here instead.


Picking the best antivirus software for Windows means finding one that keeps your PC safe, doesn't take up a lot of system resources, is easy to use and stays out of the way till you need it. Here's what to look for.


Effectiveness: Antivirus software runs virus scans for known viruses and malware, of course, and can offer real-time protection. And it watches for shady websites and suspicious links to keep you out of trouble. It can also offer ransomware protection and monitor unexpected behavior that may be a sign of new and not-yet-identified viruses and malware. You want antivirus software that can successfully identify these unknown online threats without flagging too many false positives.


Light on system resources: You don't want antivirus software that taxes your PC's resources. If after you install the program, websites open slowly, apps download or open sluggishly or file copies take longer than expected, you may want to try another service. The good news is, all our picks offer a free trial or money-back guarantee to let you try out the antivirus program, so if your system feels sluggish after installation, you may want to keep looking.


Privacy: To be effective, antivirus software needs to monitor what's going on with your PC, check in with company servers about unusual behavior and should provide sound banking protection. The companies say they anonymize this technical data as much as possible to protect your privacy. But if you want to know more, the security companies on our list post privacy policies on their websites, so read their privacy statements to learn what the companies do with the information you share.


Any program running on your computer will require a certain amount of processing power to work, which can affect your computer's overall performance. If an antivirus program is just running in the background, it shouldn't really have any effect on your computer's performance. However, when actively running a scan of your system, antivirus software can noticeably slow down your computer. If this is the case, try to schedule antivirus scans at night, or at a time when you're not using your computer.


Installing antivirus protection on your main production computer is a good thing. Extending that protection to all your other devices is even better. With McAfee AntiVirus Plus, one subscription lets you install security software on every Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS device in your household. When all your devices are armored against attack, the whole network benefits. 041b061a72


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