Personal Finance and Online Security

Do You Need Anti-Virus Software?

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Anti-viruses, you may have heard of them, McAfee, Norton360, but do we do they do and do we need them? Before we begin, this is a topic that you absolutely need to know the difference between privacy and security. So, if you haven’t read my article that discusses these, then please read here before continuing. 

We all know the internet can be a dangerous place–there are scammershackers, and viruses (a form of malware). Now, you’re told when buying a computer that you need anti-virus software, or else you will catch viruses and your computer will be useless. This is also pushed by anti-virus companies themselves for obvious financial reasons. 

So, do you need anti-virus software, and what do they do? Oh, and if you’re reading this on a Mac and telling yourself “Macs don’t get viruses“, well, it’s not true.

Do you need an Antivirus?

They are generally good for your online security, they continually scan your system for malware and vulnerabilities, they check every website you visit, scan email attachments, and for some paid services, they can have extra add-ons, such as VPN, password managers, etc.

But, and it is a big but, it is probably one of the worst things you can have for your online privacy. As mentioned, anti-viruses need to scan all files, websites, and all your personal data in order to track for malicious content. They almost always collect everything coming in and out of your computer. Go read your anti-virus privacy policy and you may be in for a shock.

Now, we want to aim towards a balance between strong security and privacy, so this is a difficult topic as anti-virus is generally good for security but detrimental for privacy. Everyone has different options, so there are some questions you need to consider:

  1. Do you use only trusted websites?
  2. What operating system do you use? (Android, iOS, etc.)
  3. What are your browsing habits?

Windows Users

For Windows, I would always recommend having something installed as a safety net. Windows’ built-in protection – Windows Defender Antivirus provides excellent security for your computer (even competes with some paid services). Also, on the privacy side, Windows collects your information anyway, therefore you should use their anti-virus, as this will minimize the number of companies that have your data.

However, if you are a beginner and don’t trust your habits, then you may need to consider investing in a paid anti-virus for better security. Although, this will most likely be worse for your overall privacy.

Mac Users

The likelihood of infection with a virus for Mac users is less than that for Windows. This is because macOS is generally targeted less and it also has a stronger security model than Windows. Therefore, if you are a careful web browser (and download only from trusted sources), then you should not require anti-virus software. 

You should still be cautious when online as macOS can still be vulnerable.

Linux Users

You typically do not require anti-virus software if you are running Linux. However, if you’re reading this, then I doubt you’ll be using Linux or even know what it is… so I’ll stop here for this article.

Regardless of what you use, I would recommend occasionally scanning your computer using ClamAV. This is an open-source (anyone can check the code and see what it does) anti-virus engine for detecting nasty things that may have slipped through your security net.

iOS Users

Some good news here. Due to Apple’s stringent rules on what apps can be downloaded to your device, along with, their strong security model. Therefore, if you see anything out there claiming to provide security for your iOS, then ignore it – it’ll do more harm than good.

Android Users

Again, it’s unlikely that you’ll require anti-virus for your Android device. If you do download multiple third-party applications (outside Play Store, etc), then you may need to consider investing in some anti-virus. 

Conclusions

Anti-virus software is a good tool to use to better improve your online security, however, they do invade your online privacy as they need to scan all files, websites, email attachments, etc. They can also be difficult to delete from your computer, as McAfee founder, John McAfee points at in this video.

Anti-virus software is not intended to do all the work for you! They are a safety net in case anything slips past you. I strongly recommend everyone to read my web browsing tips article to ensure you stay safe and decrease any chances of downloading a virus.

Like everything in life – it’s a fine balance. Depending on your browsing habits, operating system, and sites you download from, you may or may not need an anti-virus. 

-PocketPound

Featured image by Michael Geiger on unsplash

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