The term ‘antivirus’ has become so ingrained in tech culture, that almost everyone is familiar with its meaning. Chances are you have a PC running Windows 10, and you’re wondering if you still need one. After all, Windows 10 is the most advanced and secure desktop operating system to date. The short and simple answer is yes, and we’re going to explore five reasons why an antivirus is still a necessity.
1. Microsoft itself ships Windows 10 with a built-in antivirus
The most obvious reason why antivirus software is still a necessity for most users is Windows Defender. Yes, even Microsoft – the company behind the Windows operating system that currently runs on over 1.5 billion PC – began integrating a basic antivirus solution with the release of Windows Vista in 2006.
A decade later, things haven’t changed all that much, except for the explosion of security threats. Today we have hundreds of millions of new PCs shipping every year with Windows Defender as an integral part of Windows 10, which comes pre-installed on many of these devices. It provides a basic layer of security until you install your own choice of antivirus.
To top it off, many PC makers include a third party security solution from companies such as Norton or McAfee, to name a few. However, this isn’t ideal for everyone. Many of these pre-installed solutions come in the form of an ‘extended trial’ that leaves users unprotected after expiry, unlike Windows Defender which is a free solution.
2. An antivirus can be used for easy setup of security rules
If you’re running the latest version of Windows 10, you can use the new Windows Defender Security Center to do more than just scanning for viruses. Additional features include ‘Device performance & health’, ‘Firewall and network protection’, ‘App and browser control’, and ‘Family options’.
The Windows Defender Security Center can provide you with additional tools, which is pretty good for a free tool, but still not enough when it comes to traditional, paid third-party solutions. There are free versions available from third parties, but they’re just as limited, and some will even nag you with pop-up ads.
There’s a good reason why some antivirus vendors have changed the branding of their products to reflect how paid tiers of their products provide you with more than a simple virus scanner tool. Some even offer mail spam protection, web browsing privacy protection, or use your mobile device as a strengthening tool for your PC’s security.
3. The antivirus has evolved to match new security threats
Most of you have probably heard or read news about classic types of malware, such as Trojans, worms, keyloggers, and backdoors. These would typically infect users through things like email attachments or downloads from suspicious websites. After that, they would spread to all devices in a local network, causing even more damage. All of them are different methods used to take advantage of your sensitive information.
Microsoft has been improving the security of Windows with each new release, rendering many of the classic viruses obsolete. In turn, the bad guys have devised new ways to attack and take over control of your PC. One notable example is ransomware, which steals your data and makes it technically impossible to access unless you pay the thieves in a way that makes it very unlikely to ever identify them.
In the meantime, antivirus software has evolved to deal with such threats. It can now provide special protection for your important folders, prevent malware from starting with Windows, and set up a trusted application whitelist. Some antiviruses even prevent an attacker from modifying their settings or uninstalling by locking things under a user password.
4. Your web browser is not as secure as you think
Chances are you spend the most time using a web browser, and this is also one of the main targets for the bad guys. As much as Google, Microsoft, and others like to tout how safe their browser is, the reality is that all of them have flaws. That leaves you vulnerable until you get an update, which can take some time depending on the complexity of fixing the flaw.
On top of these, the classic phishing attacks still work. Attackers can hide malicious code in ads, auto-playing video, or social media campaigns masquerading as legitimate competitions or giveaways. Once you click on these, you’re infected. And since there’s no visual clue of what has happened, you may not even know it.
Some attacks involve redirects that take you from a legitimate service to an infected or masquerading web page. As you’re trying to log in, you basically give away your credentials to the bad guys. Good antiviruses typically analyze the web page code and will warn you if it’s malicious.
5. The antivirus as an additional layer of security
“But I’m careful what I do with my PC and on the web!” is what some users may say. But you can never be too careful about security, and good practices are not enough to keep your PC safe. Thinking proactively about security will lower the risk of data and financial theft, or identity fraud.
As medics say: prevention is better than the cure. Here are some of the situations where an antivirus can provide some precious additional security:
- online shopping, banking, and trading
- using public Wi-Fi
- sharing links, files, or even your PC with others
- clicking on ads, giveaway links
- watching adult content
- when using social media or exploring the web
- when downloading files, media, and software from the web
Some of you may even think that antiviruses can catch malware only after the fact. In reality, the best security solutions today analyze the behavior of any app you run. This increases the chances of discovering a security threat before it even has a chance to do any harm.
What about Windows 10 S?
Microsoft says that Windows 10 S is more secure because it only runs sandboxed apps from the Windows Store. That’s true to some extent, but it’s not the whole story. You’re only less likely to get spyware and adware from the Store – which is curated by Microsoft.
You’ll only be able to use Microsoft’s Edge browser in Windows 10 S, which is still vulnerable to attacks. Your important files still need protection from ransomware. Even sandboxed apps from the Store are not the holy grail of security. On top of that, the default account on Windows 10 S is still is vulnerable to attacks.
The takeaway is this: an antivirus is still as important as being careful and keeping your software up to date. Also, there’s no need to spend a fortune on an antivirus. Companies like Bitdefender offer more affordable tiers that fit your specific needs.