Stay Protected: The 5 Best Antivirus Programs for 2011
Whether you use your computer mostly for academic research or e-mailing your grandkids, it’s necessary to protect yourself with some form of antivirus software. But with so many options - and an ever-changing horde of computer virus cyberthreats, including malware targeting cloud computing and mobile devices - which is the best antivirus package to suit your specific needs?
SecurityNewsDaily and TopTenReviews.com surveyed the market to find the best antivirus software. We spoke with cybersecurity experts who weighed in on the pressing need to employ a strong digital defense, no matter which company provides it.
Before any of the top software solutions can be discussed, it’s necessary to heed the warning issued by Kevin Houle, senior director of malware analysis for SecureWorks.
"There is no such thing as a perfect anti-virus product," Houle told SecurityNewsDaily. "None of them can provide complete protection from all malware when they are installed, and none of them cover 100 percent of all emerging malware."
With that in mind, the five best antivirus solutions to which security professionals consistently bestow the highest marks come from BitDefender, Kaspersky Lab, AVG, Sophos and Norton.
BitDefender is 'game' to tackle emerging threatsBitDefender Antivirus Pro 2011 ($29.95 per year for three PCs) TopTenReviews wrote, "We’ve been impressed with BitDefender Antivirus for years, and they continue to innovate and improve year after year to maintain their status as the best anti-virus software on our list."
According to TopTenReviews, BitDefender is a strong solution because of its ease of use, effectiveness and wide scope of protection. These are characteristics shared by all the best antivirus software suites. What sets BitDefender Antivirus Pro 2011 apart is the features it has at its disposal to face the social-engineering and "poisoned SEO" (search engine optimization) threats that security professionals think will be widespread this year.
BitDefender comes with Search Advisor, a tool that’s built into your Web browser and notifies you of safe search results. Search Advisor mitigates the problems posed by poisoned SEO schemes - in which scammers trick search engines into ranking corrupted pages at the top of the search results - by letting users know whether or not the website they are about to visit is suspected to be harboring malware.
In 2011, gaming devices such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 will be particularly susceptible to attack, according to Kurt Baumgartner, senior malware researcher at Kaspersky Lab.
To fend off this new danger, BitDefender also comes with a feature called Secure Gamer mode, which allows gamers to remain protected while turning off all notifications and interruptions.
Kaspersky keeps its head in the cloud
GlobalSecurity.org, told SecurityNewsDaily.
That’s an indisputable fact of the new online reality. But it doesn’t mean that Web surfers can’t feel secure from the multitudes of new phishing e-mails, social engineering scams,Trojans, spyware, worms and other malware.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2011, which scored across-the-board high marks in Virus Bulletin’s latest VB100 anti-virus test, "is as all-encompassing as they come," said TopTenReviews, adding that, "Kaspersky is known for their quick response to new viruses, and they’re often among the first to detect new viruses in the wild."
With the burgeoning and dangerous trend of malware spreading through cloud-based file-sharing services, Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2011 ($59.95 per year for three PCs) earns its stripes as one of the best anti-virus solutions with its System Watcher feature.
It keeps users safe “as you surf the Web, download files, send and receive e-mails, and access files and documents,” explained TopTenReviews.
AVG keeps you safe while you’re being socialAVG Anti-Virus 2011, which costs $34.99 for a year’s subscription for one PC.
Like the others in its esteemed company, AVG is effective and easy to use and install. But it really proves its worth in the realm of social networking, one of the most frequently used vectors through which attackers can quickly spread malicious software.
AVG Anti-Virus 2011 contains a new feature called Social Networking Protection, which keeps users of Facebook and other social-networking services safe by scanning all shared links in real time.
Given the recent proliferation of malware sent via shortened URLs on Facebook and Twitter, AVG could be one of the best anti-virus shields for hundreds of millions of daily social networkers.
Norton spots the fakes
Symantec’s Norton AntiVirus 2011 ($39.99 per year for three PCs) addresses the issue with Norton Power Eraser, a program which locates and removes fake antivirus programs.
Norton is also in front of the crowd - and ready for the new batch of threats - with Norton Safe Web for Facebook and silent gamer mode.
Sophos reaches out to Macs
In fact, Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant with the antivirus firm Sophos, reported that his firm had detected nearly 50,000 pieces of malware between Nov. 2 and Nov. 16, many of which were designed specifically to infect Macs.
Most of the anti-virus industry is focused on PCs, but as the number of Mac users continues to grow, the cyberattacks targeting them will grow stronger.
"Ultimately, hackers will develop code to carry out their attacks on your valuable data and computing resources, regardless of platform," Don Jackson, director of threat intelligence for SecureWorks, told SecurityNewsDaily.
To that end, antivirus makers have begun rolling out solutions built specifically for Macs. One is Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition, a free version of Sophos’ business-level Mac antivirus program, which earned top marks in the VB100 test.
New to the market - it was released Nov. 2 - Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition keeps Apple users safe from the kind of malicious software that’s plagued PC users for years.
Still, it’s important to remember that with any antivirus software you purchase, the purchase and installation is only half the battle. And none of these security suites protect smartphones and other mobile devices, an already huge opportunity for the malware miscreants.
As SecureWorks’ Houle told SecurityNewsDaily, “The most important thing about anti-virus software is to actually use it as a baseline defense in a layered security strategy. It must be acquired, installed, enabled and maintained to remain current as new threats are discovered.”
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