In our modern world of always-connected devices and endless cyber threats, one of the most common questions consumers have is – do I still need antivirus software? With sophisticated built-in protections in Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS, it‘s tempting to think dedicated antivirus is no longer necessary.
The short answer is yes, antivirus software remains essential in 2023 to keep your devices and data safe. While operating systems have strengthened defenses, new malware threats are unleashed daily. A reliable antivirus suite provides vital real-time monitoring and protection that operating systems lack.
Before we dive into why antivirus is still crucial, how it works, top software picks and tips to stay protected, let‘s examine the scale of the malware threat landscape. Understanding these risks will make the importance of antivirus crystal clear.
Malware Threats Just Keep Growing
According to leading cybersecurity researchers, nearly 900,000 new malware threats are released every single day. That‘s right – close to a million new malicious programs, apps and files designed to infiltrate systems and steal data get produced daily. It‘s a staggering figure.
No platform is immune – Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS all face this relentless onslaught. Windows saw over 117 million new malware threats in 2021 alone, per Avast‘s annual threat report. Even Macs and iPhones, long considered relatively safe, saw macOS malware grow by 38% and iOS by 61% last year.
Android remains a prime target with over 599 million new malware threats in 2022 so far, per AV-Test Institute research. With billions of Android devices in use globally, hackers are heavily incentivized to target this massive user base.
Major malware categories like viruses, spyware, ransomware and phishing threats all continue to evolve and increase annually:
|Malware Type||2021 Infections||2022 Infections|
|Viruses||552 million||623 million (projected)|
|Spyware||978,000||1.2 million (projected)|
|Ransomware||304 million||418 million (projected)|
|Phishing Sites||1.7 million||1.9 million (projected)|
These staggering numbers reveal an online threat landscape that grows more hazardous each year. For consumers, the risk to our personal data and privacy has never been greater.
Public WiFi Networks Pose Major Risk
Another rising risk as we increasingly work remotely is using public WiFi networks. Coffee shops, hotels, airports and other public hotspots offer convenient connectivity, but often lack security. Researchers found a shocking 83% of public WiFi networks fail to use encryption, leaving traffic openly exposed.
This creates an ideal hunting ground for hackers to intercept login credentials, financial data, emails and other sensitive information. The growth of remote work has led to a dramatic spike in public WiFi usage over the past three years, further aggravating this risk.
Antivirus software can provide an essential layer of protection when using public networks by encrypting connections through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to keep data safe from prying eyes. VPNs anonymize network traffic to conceal your identity and activity.
Real-World Examples Show Danger is Real
It‘s easy to become numb to all the malware statistics and perceive the risks as hypothetical. But real people suffer serious consequences from these threats every day. Here are just a few recent examples:
- A 2022 phishing scam targeted Instagram users with fake copyright violation messages that infected devices with spyware and ransomware when clicked. Millions of users were affected before Meta contained the attack.
- The large 2021 Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack led to gas shortages for thousands of Americans after the company pipeline was forced to shut down for days. The attack cost the company over $4 million in ransom alone.
- A Las Vegas hospital paid $40 million in extortion demands after a 2020 ransomware attack encrypted patient records and appointment data. Many patients had care disrupted.
- Over 50 million healthcare records were breached by hackers in 2021, including sensitive medical histories, social security numbers and insurance data. Patients faced major privacy violations.
The takeaway is that these threats have real-world victims and can disrupt lives. The data shows malware is rampant, and the consequences are real and often severe when our defenses are breached.
Antivirus Provides Active Defense We All Need
So how can average consumers protect themselves against rapidly evolving high-tech threats targeting our devices and data? The answer is effective antivirus software.
Antivirus provides constant vigilance, actively scanning for threats from viruses to ransomware to phishing scams across emails, messaging, websites and files. When suspicious activity is detected, it blocks the threat and contains the damage.
Per cybersecurity experts, antivirus is able to block greater than 99% of known malware thanks to round-the-clock monitoring and updates. Compare that to the limited defenses built into operating systems – Windows Defender blocked under 92% of threats in testing by Germany‘s AV-Test Institute.
Brian Krebs, author of “Spammer-X”, says:
"Operating systems have gotten better at protecting themselves, but they don’t have the capability to protect against new threats as quickly as antivirus software can."
Antivirus suites also provide additional layers of protection beyond malware scanning that are critical to security:
- Firewalls monitor network traffic and block unauthorized access attempts
- VPNs encrypt connections to keep activity private on public WiFi
- Password Managers store credentials securely and generate strong random passwords.
- Parental Controls restrict access to protect children from inappropriate content
Quality antivirus solutions will also check for outdated software and missing security patches, which are often gateways for attacks. They can even scan email attachments and files in real-time before you open them.
The bottom line is that robust antivirus software provides comprehensive protection on all fronts to guard against an advancing army of cyber threats targeting consumers. The value of that to your privacy and peace of mind is immense.
Top Antivirus Software Picks for 2023
Now that you understand the vital protective role antivirus plays, let‘s examine some of the top antivirus software options for consumers in 2023:
Norton 360 – Norton sets the standard for comprehensive feature-packed protection. Real-time threat monitoring, dark web scanning, and LifeLock identity theft protection justify the premium price.
McAfee Total Protection – McAfee offers one of the most complete antivirus suites with an intuitive interface. File encryption, password manager and full VPN make it worth the cost.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus – Bitdefender captures an ideal balance of stellar malware detection, fast performance and value at just over $30 per year.
Kaspersky Internet Security – Kaspersky is a security suite focused on ransomware protection, with real-time website scanning and adaptive AI malware detection.
Avast One Essential – Avast provides extensive antivirus capabilities for free, but the $60 per year paid version adds a full VPN, identity protection and other premium tools.
AVG Antivirus Free – Another very capable free antivirus option from a trusted brand. The $80 per year paid upgrade provides complete system tuning and optimization.
There are certainly other great options, but these tend to rise to the top in most expert antivirus software reviews. Focus on finding a solution that provides real-time threat defense across all your devices, with any extra protections that matter most to you like parental controls, VPNs or password management.
Antivirus Best Practices
To get the most protection from your antivirus software, here are some key best practices to follow:
🔑 Enable auto updates – This ensures virus definitions and security patches stay current to protect against the latest threats.
🔑 Schedule regular scans – Run quick, full and custom scans on a regular basis to detect any new risks.
🔑 Avoid suspicious links/files – Don‘t click on sketchy links and attachments which can trigger infections before antivirus can react.
🔑 Use VPN when on public WiFi – VPN encryption keeps your connection secure from snooping on public networks.
🔑 Backup important data – Maintain backups of critical files offline in case malware slipped through and encrypted data.
Following these simple precautions ensures your antivirus protection remains at peak effectiveness.
The Risks of Expired Antivirus Software
One common but dangerous mistake many make is continuing to use antivirus software past expiration. Once antivirus expires:
❌ Virus definitions become outdated – Without updates, your antivirus will miss newer threats.
❌ Technical support ends – You lose access to customer service if you encounter issues.
❌ Warranties become invalid – Any damage to your system may not be covered.
❌ Renewal discounts disappear – You‘ll pay full price rather than renewal rates.
Unfortunately, over 20% of antivirus users run expired software, leaving them severely exposed. Prioritizing continuous, active antivirus protection is essential in today‘s cyber risk environment.
Antivirus Remains Your First Line of Defense
In a world where sophisticated cyber attacks make headlines weekly, hopefully this breakdown has helped convey why antivirus protection remains as vital as ever in 2023.
With close to a million new malware threats emerging daily across Windows, MacOS, Android and other platforms, relying solely on built-in OS defenses is dangerously naive.
Dedicated antivirus suites like Norton, McAfee and others provide constant vigilance through real-time scanning and threat updates to identify and block the latest risks targeting your devices and data.
Equally important, they offer additional security tools like firewalls, VPNs and password managers that protect you on all digital fronts – not just malware.
So don‘t gamble with security in 2023. Invest in a trusted antivirus software solution tailored to your needs and embrace the peace of mind it brings. Your devices and data will thank you!