The virtual world presents a wide range of hazards ranging from the mildly annoying to the potentially disastrous. From computer viruses which can disrupt and destroy to keyloggers and Trojans which can steal your personal and financial information, there is literally no end of threats both from online and offline sources. For this reason, not only should you be vigilant when using the Web; you should also ensure that you have suitable antivirus software installed and running on your computer at all times. This software should also be kept up-to-date so that it may effectively tackle the constant stream of new and emerging security threats.
For the average home user, the free antivirus solutions which come with Windows and most other operating systems tend to be accurate, provided that you also exercise caution when using the Internet. However, for individuals and businesses which heavily rely on the Internet for things such as shopping or banking it is generally advisable to have a more sophisticated antimalware suite in operation. If you are looking to protect your computer with the latest and most powerful in antivirus software, consider the ten key features that any such solution should have.
1 – Real-time Scanning
The most basic antivirus solutions only provide on-demand scanners, but real-time scanning is an essential feature to have on any computer. Real-time scanning means that data flowing into your computer over a network or the Internet is constantly being monitored. Whenever a suspicious file of piece of code tries to get onto your computer, the antivirus software should pick it up and deal with it appropriately. After all, it is much easier to prevent malware than to remove it.
2 – Automatic Updates
New threats emerge on a daily basis and in order to keep your computer protected, you are going to need to be running the latest antivirus software at all times. Any decent antivirus software should have an option to automatically download and install virus definition databases to keep your computer protected. While you may prefer to download updates manually, it is generally advisable to leave it up to the software just in case you forget, leaving your computer vulnerable.
3 – Heuristic Scanning
Most paid antivirus suites provide heuristic scanning to tackle new and unknown threats. Heuristic scanning searches for suspicious behaviour rather than malicious code itself. By identifying such behaviour, it will be able to identify otherwise unknown threats. This is perhaps the most important feature of all to consider when looking for antivirus software, since the majority of hacker attacks and malicious software infections occur in this way.
4 – Scheduled Scanning
Antivirus software and computer security are generally not things that most people want to have to bother preoccupying themselves with any more than necessary. In addition to real-time protection, it is also a good idea to have a full system scan automatically scheduled to take place at specified intervals. Most antivirus solutions, including many of the free ones offer an automatic task scheduler for scanning your computer without requiring any input from the user.
5 – Compressed File and Folder Scanning
The majority of files downloaded from the Internet come in the form of compressed archives. Among the most popular compressed archive formats are ZIP and RAR. Such archives may contain malicious software which can remain undetectable to less sophisticated antivirus programs. Antivirus software which can scan and detect potential threats in downloaded archives can alert you of problems before you take the risk of extracting the archive’s contents onto your computer.
6 – Automatic Script Blocking
7 – Email Protection
Email protection is rarely an essential, but it is a welcome extra to have nonetheless and something which most of the more sophisticated antivirus software suites come with anyway. This will help to protect you from potentially harmful email attachments. After all, a great deal of malicious software does arrive in spam email. Email protection should also automatically scan links in emails to determine whether or not they are safe to click on.
8 – Instant Messaging Protection
Just like email, instant messaging applications are also sometimes open to security flaws which hackers can take advantage of to send you links to malicious software. Antivirus software that provides instant messaging protection will scan incoming links and file transfers to help ensure that any potential threat is taken care of before it has chance to reach your computer. If you are a heavy user of multiple instant messaging services, this can be a useful feature to have.
9 – Performance and System Footprint
One problem that a lot of antivirus software has is that it tends to leave a considerable footprint on system resources to the point that it may decrease performance and even make your computer less responsive. Antivirus software is particularly hated among gamers and other power users as it often intervenes in inappropriate situations and/or slows down the computer. When buying antivirus software, be sure to read third-party reviews to learn more about its performance.
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