Q: My antivirus program is about to expire, so do I renew it or buy new antivirus software?
A: This question is amongst the most common because antivirus programs require an annual renewal in order to continue to get updates.
This forces the user to make a decision or in far too many cases, to put off the decision because they aren’t really sure if they should stick with the protection they have or switch.
Not making a decision and letting your protection expire is the worst possible scenario as new types of malware that you will no longer be protected against are discovered every day.
Unfortunately, the majority of the computers that we see for service that are badly infected with malware have expired antivirus that the owner was meaning to get renewed.
In my opinion, there is no such thing as “the best” antivirus program, even though most every antivirus program on the market has been rated “the best” by one testing lab or another.
The reality is, that no matter what you choose to use as protection, none of them can protect you from everything because the bad guys have the upper hand.
Those with malicious intent are constantly cooking up new threats that they can test against today’s most popular antivirus programs until they find a way to sidestep them, which is why what you do on the Internet is far more important than what you have for protection.
As far as the various ratings that you can find on the Internet, I rarely put much stock in any of them because they are all flawed in one way or another. Some test by throwing a lot of old virus code that’s no longer in the wild at programs that are focused on today’s real threats, which results in lower ratings.
Others clearly have a vested interest from an advertising standpoint to make certain products look good, especially those rating systems that offer to sell you the products that they rate the highest.
Even if you could find the “best” program today, it wouldn’t be the best for long, because the threat landscape is constantly changing.
To underscore this, in 20 years of installing antivirus for our customers, what we install changes on a regular basis based on a number of criteria that go beyond the level of protection.
We look at the tradeoff between protection and what performance impact that it may have on the computer. Older computers that try to run today’s full-fledged protection suites will likely bog down noticeably because they lack the processing power needed to carry the load.
Another big criterion for us is whether the program will bombard the user with advertising compelling them to install unnecessary additional software, which is one of the downsides to many of the free programs.
There are actually three options for anyone that finds themselves in this position: renew the existing, buy a different program or move to a free program.
The easiest option is to simply renew what you have to avoid uninstalling the existing software, installing the new program and getting familiar with how it works.
The downside to this option is that you may miss the opportunity to move to a more comprehensive or complete protection package, especially if your usage and behavior have changed over the past year, or your older computer may not powerful enough to handle the latest update.
If you have a trusted tech resource, have them review your current protection package, discuss any issues you’ve had over the past year and take into consideration the age of your computer. You also need to consider any future users that may come into play, especially younger users who tend to click on anything that pops up on the screen (they require more pro-active security, not basic scan-and-detect protection).
Many antivirus companies have transitioned from the old scan-and-detect process on which most ratings are based and have developed newer, more sophisticated predictive detection processes to combat the constant cat-and-mouse game that is the status quo.
The only wrong decision is to let it expire — so if you can’t get help making a decision, renew what you have.
• Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio
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