Tech Tips: Modern security software protects against today’s threats

Internet threats are getting more sophisticated. From ransomware to keyloggers, consumers face ever-increasing risk. Fortunately, today’s security software offers high-level protection from viruses in the wild. Here’s how you can find the right security software for your needs.

You might be asking yourself why you need security software at all. Don’t Windows and Mac both have built-in antivirus protection? They do, but it’s rudimentary compared to the features available in a full-fledged security suite. That’s why IT experts recommend that you use additional software. The built-in antivirus is meant as a basic layer of protection only. It’s not enough to protect your computer against internet threats that are continually evolving and finding new ways to outsmart security.

Is free antivirus adequate, or do you have to buy the full version? Free antivirus is certainly better than no antivirus, and free apps like Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, and Sophos have excellent reputations in the IT industry. But again, you get what you pay for. Most free apps are just antivirus with no additional features.

If you want the best protection for your computer, you’ll find it in a paid security app. Security apps not only include antivirus but also heuristics that can detect virus-like behavior. They can recognize viruses that haven’t yet been identified by researchers, which can give you a head start on protecting your computer from new virus outbreaks.

They also typically include a firewall and a web browser extension, which help to block malicious websites. Many offer tools to protect your identity and privacy, and some include password managers. The same companies that make free antivirus also offer paid versions of their products.

Folks sometimes ask me if the software firewall that comes with their security software is a replacement for the firewall in their router. The answer is a resounding, “No.” The firewall in your router protects your whole network. The one with your security software is certainly good to have, but it can’t protect anything except the computer on which it’s installed.

Smart phones and tablets are just as susceptible to virus infection as computers. There are viruses that specifically affect mobile devices. Mobile devices also can be carriers of computer viruses lurking behind the scenes until the device is connected to a computer or network. And internet scams like phishing emails can affect you no matter what kind of device you use.

Security software offers protection for multiple devices for a monthly or yearly subscription cost, eliminating the need to buy separate versions for Mac, Windows and mobile. Some also offer a trial if you want to try before you buy.

One final caution about security software. Cybercriminals like to disguise malware as legitimate apps, and they’re especially fond of impersonating antivirus software. Why? Because consumers are likely to believe, and click on, security alerts – especially if those alerts are coming from software they think is legitimate. Only download apps from the App Store or the developer’s own website.

• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and consumer technology specialist offering tech support and advice for home computer users. For free weekly tips and news by email, subscribe to her Simple Tech Tips blog at