Computers have transformed everything in our lives, from helping students to learn as well as monitoring patients in hospitals, and monitoring critical manufacturing processes. The increasing dependence on computers and devices has also led to a rise in cyberthreats, such as malware, viruses and ransomware. Antivirus software detects these threats and prevents them from damaging your computer or stealing personal data.

When selecting an antivirus program it is essential to consider its virus-scanning capabilities, if it has a fire-wall, and how it performs in independent laboratory tests. It is also advisable to look at its customer support, how often it updates and the amount of devices it will protect. Some programs, like Norton have additional tools that can help prevent identity theft and protect your privacy online.

The top programs provide various options for protection, including heuristic detection, which looks for behavior patterns typical of malware or viruses and signature matching, which compares files against a list of known malicious software. Some programs use sandboxing to keep suspicious files out of an environment that is completely sealed and in a safe place where they are not able to do any harm.

Many of the top antivirus programs are available for free, but they may not offer as many additional features as paid options. Bitdefender’s premium version comes with parental controls, a file shredder, and password manager, but its free version scored very well and comes with a firewall. Malwarebytes which is free and was a top performer in our AV Test for 2023, did not pass our usability test. Intego Mac Security X9 comes with an effective combination of tools, including VirusBarrier and NetBarrier. They was able to identify and eliminate the majority of malware-related threats during our test.

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