Antivirus Software:

Better Safe Than Sorry

Rebecca Christensen, Cactus Staff Writer

If you’ve paid attention to the news lately, you might have noticed that Anti-Virus Guard (commonly known as AVG), a family of security-related software products, has recently come under fire for not clarifying their End User License Agreements (EULA) in regards to what they do with client information. AVG has also made it abundantly clear that the software they peddle collects your data and sends it to outside organizations. Today, when so many people are worried about the government collecting private information, the idea that antivirus software is actually distributing personal information is cause for concern.

This raises several questions for the average antivirus software user. For one, how do you know whether you can trust the software that is protecting your computer? What do other companies write in their EULAs regarding your private information, and are you comfortable with trusting your information to that company? Is paid antivirus software safer and more effective than free software? What software can you trust on your computer, and how do you go about choosing it?

All of these questions factor in when choosing antivirus software. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to choose the software you need, especially when a once-trusted company like AVG is making headlines over their changes in policy. One of the first questions people ask when trying to choose software is whether to pay for software, or find freeware. There are plenty of brands to choose from in both categories, and it all comes down to whether you feel more comfortable using free software, or prefer paying for a service. Just because one brand is $60 a year doesn’t mean they offer better protection; sometimes the best option is free. Likewise, the opposite is also sometimes true, and it’s always a good idea to remember that one way or another, if you’re not paying for it, you are the product.

There’s also the matter of what the software claims to protect against. Threats to your computer’s security don’t all fall under one category. There are trackers, viruses, worms, spyware, adware; the list goes on. Usually, however, “malware” is a good umbrella term to cover all of these, and you’ll want to look for that in the software’s description.

Along with considering what each software program defends against, it’s also useful to consider how much of your computer’s resources are going to be used up by the program. For example, Norton and McAfee are well known for slowing computers down tremendously. However, software programs like Avira, Avast, and Webroot are more lightweight programs that don’t slow computers down as much.

On that note, Norton and McAfee are two of the most well recognized names in the antivirus software industry. Despite this, they have a reputation of giving users such problems as preventing Internet connection, decreasing performance, and being extremely troublesome to remove from a computer. Some people even consider the programs themselves to be more of a menace than the malware they are designed to protect against. In the past few years, AVG has also begun to bloat users’ computers, taking up large amounts of resources, and occasionally corrupting system files.

If you’re looking for suggestions as to what program to use, Avira, Avast, Malwarebytes, Bitdefender, and HitmanPro are all programs with good reputations that offer both free and paid options. HitmanPro, in particular, is good for a last-ditch effort before resetting your computer to factory settings. Kaspersky and Webroot are available to those who wish to buy software. Webroot is a very lightweight program, but Kaspersky is a bit more of a heavy hitter, but very effective all the same.

If you are looking for antivirus software, your best bet is to do your research. Don’t just ask friends and family what they use, browse news articles online, scroll through forums, ask that one guy you work with who’s pretty good with computers. There are some good options out there for both the people who want to pay for software, and those who prefer free software.

Just always remember to browse the EULA, and make sure you’re comfortable with what the company does with your information—if it claims to do anything at all.