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Don't Let Your Computer Catch a Virus This Season

We’re coming upon the cold and flu season again, and while you maintain your health with a good diet and maybe getting a flu shot, how protected is your computer from viruses and other malware (broadly known under the term cybersecurity) that could render it down for the count?

The news is filled with cybersecurity breaches at companies that seem like they would be impenetrable fortresses. So while your laptop may seem like small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, it’s also low-hanging fruit with tons of personal information on it that would be worth plenty to anyone with basic hacking skills. Anti-virus and malware software is therefore a must to include on any computer.

cybersecurity software
Cybersecurity is not just for large companies, it's for anyone with a computer. How secure is your personal data and identity?

What to look for:

On-demand malware and virus scanning - Some people may prefer to set it and forget it when it comes to having regular checks done on their systems. However, in some cases — like when your bank’s information has been compromised — you may want to take additional and immediate precautions. This is the most basic of benefits, so if you don’t see it offered, the software isn’t worth it.

On-Access Malware scanning - While you’re busy surfing, your software is constantly scanning for malicious content, but rests when you power down. This is also a pretty basic service, so expect this from any software package you’re considering.

Malicious URL blocking - We can be so darn gullible, and while we don’t know why our best friend sent us an email asking us to “Watch this!,” our impulse is to do just that. These blockers save us from our own good natures that might lead to our data being hacked, or our internal systems being seized up and rendered useless. You will likely see a popup informing you of this, but sometimes only upon the first instance.

Phishing protection - You’ve gotten the alarming emails from your bank asking you to protect your account by submitting information. If you’re not careful, you will overlook that the email actually came from a Gmail account, or an account that simply doesn’t match up. Features like phishing protection save you time by blocking the emails or putting them right into spam, and of course they also save you heartache from fraud.

Behavior Based Detection - Unlike signature based detection, which guards against known threats, behavior based detection software protects you from malware that is exhibiting the potential for misbehavior. Call it a Minority Report-style scan of incoming data to your computer, but advanced features like this put barriers up beyond what typical gatekeeping software does.

Vulnerability Scanning - Consider this the actuarial department of any security software that offers it. This examines your networks and identifies where you’re weakest. It can also predict how effective preventative or counter measures will be based on your current system.

Picking the favorites

The earliest names in security software - Norton/Symantec and McAfee — still are among the best rated by tech pros. They’re joined by Kaspersky, BiteDefender and Webroot according to PC Magazine’s editor’s picks. Surprisingly — and happily — they are also not the most expensive.

That said, your best pick may differ, and it pays to do a little homework. How you use your device is really the measure for purchasing any software, and generally the more and varied ways you use tech, the more coverage you’re going to need. Some packages offered by these companies will also cover a host of devices and will save you money and perhaps even a little lost sleep.

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