When it comes to securing your computer against hackers, viruses, and all another manner of threats”? the number of different opinions telling you what you should do can be mind-boggling. A simple internet search will lead you to one expert saying that nothing less than Fort Knox- level security will do, while another tells you that you don’t need an antivirus at all (don’t listen to that one).
Perhaps one of the most baffling aspects of selecting a security solution though is that fact that there is rarely a description of what they actually do, and what makes one different from another. Case in point? Antivirus protection and internet security. To the average consumer, they probably seem like the could be the same thing; after all, don’t most viruses come from the internet? While that is true, and there are some similarities between the two, they are actually quite different.
Defining the Terms
To begin, let’s define the terms antivirus and internet security.
Antivirus software or protection is exactly that: It’s an application or software program designed to detect and block viruses (as well as malware, spyware, adware, rootkits, and other harmful software) from taking hold on your computer, as well as remove any harmful code that has found its way in.
Typically less expensive than other security options, it also uses fewer computer resources when running — but it has a very specific and defined purpose. You cannot count on antivirus to protect your machine against other threats, like phishing.
That’s where internet security comes in. Internet security, sometimes referred to as total security, is a more comprehensive form of protection. It’s usually a suite of protections, including antivirus, antimalware, firewalls, anti-phishing protection, parental controls, and identity protection features.
Some products also offer additional features like file encryption and online backups of data. As you might expect, internet security programs are more expensive and use more computing power than antivirus software, but the tradeoff is that your computer is more thoroughly protected against threats.
In some ways, both antivirus and internet security programs work similarly. Both rely on definitions to identify viruses and malware and constantly update definitions to include the latest threats and iterations of new threats.
More specifically, antivirus software works by detecting the signatures of software to identify those that are harmful, in combination with other tools like heuristics, behavior-based detection, sandboxing, and data mining, to determine which code is harmful and which is harmless and should be allowed onto the machine. The primary difference, of course, is that internet security programs go even further, and offer additional security features because not all threats to a computer are from viruses.
Which One Do I Need?
For quite some time, most people added antivirus protection to their computers and assumed that was enough. Internet security suites were primarily used by businesses that needed to have the utmost in protection against hackers, viruses, and other threats.
However, the threat landscape has changed considerably over the years and continues to evolve every day. As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, it’s important for consumers to also become more sophisticated in how they protect themselves against these threats. For instance, if you have children, antivirus protection isn’t going to include parental controls that will block potentially harmful websites or control and monitor what your kids are doing online, but internet security will.
Internet security suites will also help protect you while you shop, bank, or do other things online that could potentially put your identity and financial information at risk. These programs will encrypt your data, ensure secure connections, and even help you create and store unique passwords for all of your accounts, ensuring that they don’t fall into the wrong hands.
There is no doubt that antivirus is important to keep your machine working properly and keeping your information out of the wrong hands. However, antivirus does not provide adequate protection against all threats in all situations. And while it might be appealing to use a low cost or even free antivirus software, the fact is that you are going to be at risk if you don’t use more comprehensive protection.
While some of the most comprehensive total security suites may offer features that the average user won’t use, an internet security program that protects against the most common threats and allows you to shop, bank, email, and use the internet safely is a worthwhile investment.