Many times, friends and colleagues have asked me which antivirus solution is the best in the market. Very often my response happens to be either of the following
- NONE – leaving the enquirer lost
- ALL – leaving the enquirer confused
However, it is not my intention to loose or confuse people, but simply to help them understand that the most effective antivirus can actually be any antivirus of their choice, although with some conditions, which we will be discussing in this journal.
Several antivirus products exist in the market, and for a while, my personal favourite has been ESET Antivirus, first because it is light weight, and doesn’t put a lot of load on my computer’s processor. The very popular ones include McAfee, Norton, Sophos, BitDefender, Kaspersky, Webroot, Trend Micro, Norman, and Microsoft Security Essentials. The complete list of antivirus products is endless. New antivirus products make their way to the market quite often, and in recent times we find them quickly replacing and outperforming the popular ones.
Antivirus Product Reviews
The position of “the best antivirus product” is quite a dynamic one. Products that rank first place today could rank tenth place by the end of the week. This is an indication that antivirus companies are working diligently to ensure that their products are appealing and effective enough for end users. TechMedia Network – an online product review company popularly known for their TopTenREVIEWS gives you information you need to make a smart purchase for various product categories including antiviruses – is a fantastic place to see what antivirus products are currently making waves. In due course you will observe that the position each product holds is not permanent.
The best antivirus solution is not a position, but a state – one that is constantly changing to meet the present day’s requirement. In order to effectively combat today’s kind of malware, the antivirus solution’s dynamism must be an equal match to those of the malware. Most of the top antivirus companies have consistently proven their mettle in this regard, though, once in a while they fall between the cracks. Antivirus manufacturers ensure that their products are properly maintained by providing regular virus signature updates, and engine upgrades. Virus signature updates ensure the antivirus product can detect and remove the most recent malware out in the wild, while Antivirus engine upgrades generally ensure that the antivirus product is healthy, stable and free from vulnerabilities – it can be likened to a doctor protecting a doctor. Most Antivirus manufacturers release updates for virus signatures and product engines very often. But even with the most recent updates several users’ computers are still compromised by malware.
Human intervention is necessary for antiviruses to function properly. Users need to understand that it is their responsibility to ensure their computers are safe and healthy. A functional and up-to-date antivirus can only offer protection to the extent that the end user permits. The task of securing a computer from malware is beyond downloading and applying antivirus updates. Hence antiviruses alone cannot guarantee the safety of computer systems from malware. Several computer system tweaks and configurations work in concert with the antivirus product to ensure the safety of computer systems and in the centre of this orchestration is the master orchestrator – the user. For example, one common best practice measure is for users to logon to their computers using an account without “administrator” privileges. For malware to infect and potentially make changes to a computer, the currently logged on user’s privilege will be required to execute the malware. If the currently logged on user has administrative privileges, the infection will likely occur even if the virus signatures are up-to-date. A limited user account does not have administrative privileges and as such a malware that attempts to infect a computer in this case will fail.
Microsoft has provided a couple of best practice measures for users to adopt to minimize the possibilities of infections and maximize the effectiveness of your antivirus solution. See How to boost your malware defense and protect your PC on Microsoft’s website. Even though these best practices may appear to be Pro-Microsoft operating systems, the underlying principles remain the same for other desktop operating systems – Apple or Linux – and mobile operating systems – iOS, Android, Blackberry OS, Symbian (Nokia), Windows Phone, etc.
In effect, the best antivirus is the one that works in tandem with best practice measures, but coordinated by human efforts.