These days, antivirus software comes with all the bells and whistles. Parental controls, password managers, activity monitors, usage meters — every feature you could want, and then some.
And it’s easy to see that you might not need all those features — maybe you don’t have kids, for example, or maybe you don’t feel a burning need to monitor who’s connecting to your network. But which features should you never do without? These five basic features are absolutely necessary if you want to keep your system safe.
You hear all kinds of scary stories these days about hackers and what they can do if they gain access to your home network. One Ring camera hacker notoriously used his skills to spy on, and terrify, an eight-year-old child in her own Mississippi bedroom. But even if hackers aren’t watching your family through your own security cameras and baby monitors, they can steal your personal data, or just commandeer your Internet of Things (IoT) to serve in an illegal botnet army.
A firewall stops that kind of traffic in its tracks, ensuring that hackers can’t access your network by filtering the traffic coming into and out of the network. Most firewalls these days analyze incoming software and block any that might be known to exploit vulnerabilities on a system.
2) Virus Detection and Removal
Virus detection and removal has been the primary function of antivirus software since the day it was invented, so you’d be remiss if you didn’t choose an antivirus software suite without this feature. You need antivirus software that can detect viruses in real time as well as during a full system scan, because that way, you can hopefully stop most virus infections before the malicious software has even finished installing itself on your machine.
Most antivirus programs work by comparing files on your computer to a database of known malware, and they’re only as good as the database itself. Make sure your antivirus program updates its definitions database at least once a day, if not more often.
3) Data Protection
Data protection is one of many features you’ll find on paid antivirus programs that aren’t included on the free versions. Some types of malware, like ransomware, allow hackers to take control of your data and hold it for ransom, while others simply destroy the data on your machine when infecting the system.
To make sure you’ll maintain access to your data, even in the event of an infection, choose a product with data protection. This feature will back up your data for you, regularly, so there’s no need to worry about losing the only copy of your PhD dissertation or your cherished family photos.
4) Phishing and Spam Filters
Phishing scams are among the most common scams being perpetrated on the internet today, and they’re almost always launched via spam email. While you might already know how to protect yourself from phishing scams, it’s best to use a phishing and spam filter anyway.
It’s easy for even the savviest web user to get taken in by a cleverly duped email — and scammers only need to fool you long enough for you to click a link and enter login details on a mirror site. All it takes is one moment of uncertainty, fear, or even grogginess to compromise your personal information and devices.
5) System Analysis
Antivirus programs might not be able to detect every virus infecting your system. You might be up against a zero-day threat that no one has encountered before, for example. But the system analysis feature can help your software detect signs of a malware infection, even when the malware itself can’t be identified.
That’s because many system components won’t function properly if the system is infected with malware, and the antivirus program can recognize these malfunction patterns, initiate a scan, and quarantine any infected files.
Every tablet, smartphone, and laptop needs antivirus software to safely navigate the web, and it’s often a good idea to protect your entire network and the less sophisticated devices connected to it. With the right antivirus program, you’ll find all the features you need to keep your machines and your network safe from hackers and malware.