People ask me what is the difference between a virus and malware? Do I need to buy expensive programs to keep me safe from viruses or do the free ones work well enough? Do I need another program for malware too?
Well I aim to answer these questions for you. The truth is that many antivirus companies rely on the confusion about the whole issue. This gets people to buy the more expensive package just so they won’t “have to deal with viruses”. Unfortunately this is not how it works. I have had many visits to those that have expensive packages with Norton or McAfee. The thing to remember is NOTHING IS FOOLPROOF. New malware is always being created, and someone always has to be the first victim before the companies can react to the new threat.
Virus or Malware: What is it?
So what is the difference between a Virus and malware? A Virus is a type of malware that is self-replicating and tries to move to other hosts and infect them as well. Malware is a general term for software that has malicious intent, hence the name. A decade or so ago, certain viruses were getting news time, and so this became a term that people were acquainted with. The term virus became so well known, that companies use the term to market their antimalware programs, and so began the selling of Antivirus. So malware is a general term whereas virus is a specific term.
So now the question is: does Antivirus block all malware or just viruses? This is very dependent on the programs. Some are very good at blocking all types of exploits, others are not as great. There are companies dedicated to the search for just malware, just “D-Day” or “0-Day exploits, and some that attempt to do it all. I know there have been a lot of terms thrown around here, but let’s get to the real reason why you should know this stuff. What should you use to protect yourself?
How to Keep Safe
The thing to remember is that software can only do so much. The first thing you should rely on is called safe browsing. This means you think about every link you click on. Every website you visit should be a known safe site. This means navigating to sites that are known to distribute illegal content (music, videos, games, etc) should be avoided at all costs. Another type of website I recommend keeping your distance from is anything that has to do with web/flash games. Not all are bad, but most of them are. If you are not sure, a great habit to get into is to do a quick background check on the website. Doing a simple search of the company or site will either show positive or negative reviews of the site. If the site is known for distributing malware, it will definitely appear in the first page of results. This is also good practice for buying from any online retailer you have not used before.
So now that you are stopping the main threats with safe-browsing, it is time to deploy a secure web browser. This means ditch Internet explorer! Internet explorer has many known issues and vulnerabilities, and although they have recently shown more interest in fixing this, it is far from being the most secure. Google Chrome is probably the most secure, followed by Firefox. To clarify: what we are talking about here is simply using a different program to access the internet. The program that comes with your computer (Internet Explorer for Windows, and Safari for Apple users) is probably what you are used to using. You can download different programs called web browsers that provide the same functionality (although often with more) but add extra security. Using these can help prevent you from visiting a bad site, or a compromised site on occasion. Google has gotten very good at detecting when this happens, and you will find they notify you before entering a compromised website.
The last line of defense is your antivirus. This is where most people go wrong. Most people think that antivirus is their only line of defense, and when they have it, they can do anything they want and be safe. Generally those that think this usually find their computers loaded with malware and running very slow. Antivirus is great at catching what you don’t, but the more you throw at it, the more likely something will get in. So what antivirus is worth it? Should you pay for it?
What Should I Use?
If you follow the guidelines above, then free antivirus is a great option. AVG and Avast are pretty great, but we also recommend the not so known Panda Cloud Antivirus. All 3 of these have free and paid versions, either level is fine. Norton has been much better lately to not ruin your computer while it runs in the background, so it now has my support again. McAfee is pretty bad at this point, and Kaspersky kind of goes either way, but isn’t the worst choice in the world.
When it comes down to it, using your brain is the most important way to keep yourself out of the fire and keep the technicians away. Antivirus is great, but it should never be used as the only line of defense. Humans are still much smarter than computers, so keep that in mind when you are surfing the web next.
To Summarize: Keep yourself safe
Did we not answer all your questions? Comment below and we will respond and include it in this post. Thanks for reading.