Internet security is an important issue for all of us. It’s easy to be complacent and assume that it’ll never happen to you — you’re too sensible and secure with your data after all, right? But keeping your computer secure from various threats online is no longer just about avoiding clicking on the “wrong” link, and utilizing common sense. Nor is it just about protecting yourself from viruses.
It’s worth it to invest in software like Norton or McAfee — two of our top picks — that can help keep your computer secure.
What threats are out there?
Zero-day vulnerabilities are one key way of suffering a breach of your information before anyone even knows an issue is there. Effectively, they’re software flaws or bugs often found by cyber criminals, before many companies realize what’s happened. Due to their popularity, commonly used software like Java, Adobe’s PDF reader and Flash Player are ripe for exploitation with many zero-day attacks stemming from the popular plug-ins.
In recent times, popular browsers like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer have suffered from such pivotal vulnerabilities. Your computer could be infected just by visiting a legitimate website that has been compromised before the flaw has been patched.
Viruses are a significant threat, but it’s more insidious things like malware that can affect your life, such as by stealing your personal data and even being instrumental in identify theft. Ransomware, which traps your data behind a paywall, is another nefarious method that’s growing in popularity. In 2018, security specialists at Kaspersky Lab registered Ransomware attacks on 179,934 unique users, while also blocking 796,806,112 attacks launched from online resources located in 194 countries across the world. It’s an alarming number that’s only set to grow as more people use PCs, and more criminals work to find exploits in the system.
Even the US government in conjunction with the UK’s National Cyber Security Center has recently warned of attempts by Russian hackers to compromise millions of routers and firewalls, including homes and small businesses across the world. The amount of financial damage caused by cyber crime is steadily growing each year too, with the annual loss amounting to $1.33 billion, compared to $781.84 million in 2013.
There’s also the issue of hardware-level CPU flaws, such as Spectre and Meltdown, which have highlighted some huge weakness points in how our PCs work. Alongside that, you need protection for those times you connect your laptop to a public Wi-Fi network, otherwise you’re opening yourself up to some significant risks.
How to protect yourself
With the threat greater than ever, it’s a crucial time to invest in security software that will check for security vulnerabilities. No matter how careful you think you are online, there’s a hacker out there who can find a way to get in. It’s a constant battle to keep your computer up to date and secure from new threats that emerge daily. Security software can go some way to detecting such issues, stopping them from infecting your PC, while protecting your data. Antivirus tools can detect suspicious looking activity via its heuristics, while firewall and malware protection can stop things at the source.
For this roundup, we’ve taken into account general ease of use and features, as well as effectiveness. Here are some of the best security software suites on the market right now:
Norton Security Premium: Best all-around security
The background: Norton has been a well established name in the security world for many years now. Odds are you’ve used at least one of its products at some point for your computer, as Norton software is often bundled with new PCs. In the past, Norton software has suffered complaints about slowing down performance but that’s been corrected in recent years, making this a great suite for covering all your needs.
Like all the other suites here, Symantec has switched to a subscription based payment model, meaning you get a license for a year for up to 10 PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets. That way, all your security needs are catered for, even if you use different systems at home. It isn’t just for anti-virus any more either.
What it offers: Besides anti-virus protection, there’s an intelligent self-sufficient firewall which provides advanced protection without disturbing you with incessant pop-ups and warnings. It’s highly capable and effective, without impacting your computer’s performance in any way.
For the concerned parent, there are parental controls that restrict your child’s internet time, the sites they can browse, what they can search for, and whether they’re allowed to access any social networks. Automatic backups can also be arranged via the suite, with 25 GB of secure cloud storage alongside local solutions.
Other features include a password manager to encourage you to use more complex passwords to keep secure, and a spam filter for taming your inboxes. Also, security and anti-theft measures are available for your smartphones — whether Android or iOS based.
The price: The parental controls package alone is a separate program for $49.99 so family users in particular will appreciate the full suite. For those looking for a more streamlined anti-virus and firewall service that only works on one computer, Norton Security Standard priced at $39.99 is the ideal alternative with Norton Security Deluxe offering similar for up to five devices for $49.99.