Protection For All Your Devices

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Modern antivirus software does a lot more than block viruses. It protects you from dangerous attachments and websites, ransomware, and can also protect your identity and help stop criminals from emptying your bank account.

What you’ll find here is everything you need to know about buying security software for a Windows PC or laptop, plus any mobile devices you want to protect including Android phones and tablets. You’ll also find our recommendations for what to buy. 

Antivirus software is crucial for all devices in order to protect the files and data stored on it. Criminals who create malware – the umbrella term which covers all types of nasty that could end up on your device – are getting smarter every day, but so is antivirus software.

Our current pick of the best antivirus for PC is Norton 360 followed by McAfee and Bitdefender. Read on below the reviews for more in-depth buying advice.

Best antivirus reviews

1. Norton 360

Norton 360 Deluxe

2. McAfee Total Protection 2021

McAfee Total Protection 2021

3. Bitdefender Total Security 2020

Bitdefender Total Security 2020

4. BullGuard Premium Protection

BullGuard Premium Protection

5. Eset Smart Security Premium

ESET Smart Security Premium 2021

6. Kaspersky Security Cloud

Kaspersky Security Cloud

How to choose the best antivirus software

Internet security software, or Antivirus software, detects, and then prevents, disarms or removes malicious apps or programs, often referred to as viruses.

While we still refer to it as antivirus, that’s only one feature of modern internet security software. That’s because security is no longer just about countering viruses. Although they still exist, viruses are arguably a minor part of the malware now prevalent on the web.

More important now is security of personal data and protection from ransomware. Security exploits aren’t about show-off hackers massaging their egos, anymore, but about monetising their malware.

The modern day criminal doesn’t have to be a hard-line hacker, either. They can buy all the software they need, and millions of addresses, on the dark web or even on eBay, if they know where to look.

Zero-day attacks

Malware is evolving faster than ever, but fortunately the latest generation of antivirus is better equipped than ever to handle new threats.

Although the primary concern is to block malware so it doesn’t install on your PC in the first place, there isn’t an internet security suite made which is 100% effective.

That said, worthwhile internet security and antivirus software should also detect so-called ‘zero day’ attacks, where the malware is so new it hasn’t yet been analysed or had ‘signatures’ build into internet security protection routines.

The speed with which these analyses are made is an important factor in the level of protection an internet security suite can provide. Some companies now claim a turnaround of well under an hour, using information gained from their own customers about similar attacks.

The cloud element in security applications is growing more and more important in speeding up this process. Some products are now using behaviour analysis and even artificial intelligence to make things quicker and more reliable.

Newly-installed software can be monitored, looking for suspicious activity and can be prevented from potentially damaging actions, such as changing registry entries or installing any browser add-ons. Ransomware can also be identified by unexpected attempts to encrypt your files.

Plus, with our extra tips on securing your computer, your stuff should remain safe.

How we test antivirus software

Every program on this list is worth your investment. The differences between the top few are relatively minor. The critical thing is to install one of them.

Obviously, we install and use the software ourselves to evaluate the user experience as well as testing out all the additional features which go far beyond viruses. Testing the protection offered from malware, however, is a subtle art that requires serious expertise. For this reason we use test results from independent testing houses including the UK’s SELabs as well as Germany’s AV-Test.org and AV-Comparatives. Each rigorously tests antivirus products from a number of leading security companies.

The multifaceted testing procedure looks not only at how well an antivirus product can detect malware using traditional, largely signature-based methods (that is, employing a database of known malware types), but also how well it can block brand-new, unknown malware caught fresh from the wild. These companies also examine how well security products clean up after an infection if a piece of malware does get through.

We’ve focused on paid-for antivirus products here, but there are some free options available. Paid-for antivirus usually offers better technical support and more comprehensive protection features than free ones, but free is free and some free packages can still give paid packages a good run for their money. Internet security suites go further still, offering firewalls, parental controls, identity theft protection and more.

If you’re looking to protect a Mac, visit our sister title Macworld’s round-up of the best antivirus for Mac.

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