The coronavirus has created a second-order crisis.
With more and more people working from home, cybercriminals have unleashed a wave of online scams. Villainous operators are hoping to jump on security flaws in at-home WiFi networks. And the need for software that protects against viruses and malware has never been greater. But does this mean you should pay for anti-virus protection?
… Not necessarily.
Free anti-virus software is becoming increasingly robust. And you can often get the protection you need without dropping a dime. Better still, Windows 10 and macOS have systems built-in, so … when does it make sense to pay?
The answer lies in how many of the following seven features you need.
What Do You Get When You Pay For Anti-Virus Software?
Anti-virus software costs anywhere from $30 to $100-plus (there’s no real upper limit: the cost depends on the brand and how many devices you want to protect).
- A free package often covers just one device.
- Whereas if you pay, you can protect several, all from a central control panel.
Paid-for services are most useful for families who want to keep several household devices secure — and businesses with more than one employee — but paid-for services offer more than just multi-device coverage. Typically, you can expect a range of extra features that most free versions won’t include:
Password managers help you save and re-enter your passwords more efficiently. They work across devices and accounts, so they’re a savior in the digital-first world. Anti-virus software should include one when you pay — just beware…
If password management is your top priority, you may want to pay for a dedicated password manager instead of using one that’s just part of an anti-virus package.
Everyone wants to know their financial information is secure. When you pay for anti-virus software, it should come with a security feature that auto-activates every time you access your bank balance to enhance your browser security.
That said, most modern browsers should have enhanced security as standard, so there’s debate around whether you need to pay for more protection.
When you have young ones, parental controls can be a must-have. And some offices like a level of oversight as well. Paying should give you this, although some operating systems (Windows Defender, for example) have parental controls built-in.
Phishing scams are as simple as they are effective. That’s why they’re the cybercriminal’s best friend. The best anti-virus software comes with robust anti-phishing alerts, flagging suspect websites, emails, and SMS messages that try to steal your data.
You can access basic anti-phishing protection for free. However, if you pay, the coverage is much more comprehensive.
Ransomware poses a significant threat. It downloads malware to your device that locks up your data, then demands payment to release it. If you have good anti-virus software, ransomware should never find its way onto your device — or that’s the theory, at least.
In reality, it does. And so it can be worth paying for the right backstops upfront to avoid having to pay a hefty sum to retrieve your files later on.
Virtual Private Networks
If you’re currently working from home, you’ll want to use a VPN. VPNs create a secure connection between your home WiFi and your business network, which means you can browse with confidence.
Paid-for anti-virus services often include a VPN. But you’ll need to check it has sufficient bandwidth to support your activities (while international charges can skyrocket if you work with a distributed team) — still, VPNs are essential for any team that works from home.
Live email, chat, and phone support are perhaps the most beneficial features when something goes wrong. It’s always helpful to have a human on-hand to help. And if you’re the kind of person who likes to talk issues through, you’ll have to pay for the privilege.
And What You Can Get For Free.
Free software tempts us all. But does it offer enough protection? In truth, that depends. If you’re a sole trader, free software can keep you safe from the most common cyber-security threats.
And if you don’t need the features outlined above, a free version might be for you as they typically offer the following:
Malware protection finds and destroys potential security threats on your computer. And free software usually does this well enough. It can even protect against ransomware, although it likely won’t claim to.
“Wait, you said I had to pay for that?” Well, yes and no. Some free software won’t advertise its anti-phishing capability but will perform well on this front — it’s always worth reading reviews in case it does.
You might not get live support, but you should expect plenty of self-help articles. Sure, having to troubleshoot a problem mid-way through a malware attack isn’t everyone’s preference, but it’s a great resource given you don’t pay for it.
A benefit of having fewer features: there just isn’t the need for a complicated menu — which makes most free versions easier to navigate.
The Hidden Cost Of Free Software
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: it may be free, but you’ll pay in some other way.
- Free software likes to nag you to upgrade. It may even suggest you pay to unlock crucial functionality at a critical time: say, only once a problem ‘is detected.’
- Or a free service might sell your data to a third party for advertising purposes (don’t believe us? Even reputable anti-virus software suppliers have been caught red-handed plying such a trade).
…So, what’s the lesson?
If you want absolute peace of mind, a small fee could give it to you — but whether you need to pay for the extra features or not…
Well, that’s up to you.
If you’re unsure if a free or paid-for anti-virus solution is for you, we’d be delighted to share some advice. Give the team a call on 207-223-7594, and we can show you the way!