Here is the dilemma: You know you need antivirus software to protect your Windows PC from malware on the internet, but there are so many antivirus products it is hard to choose the best one. Is one package better than another? Is one more secure? Does it block more viruses? Here is what you need to know.
You only have to look to your inbox to find virus samples and they are frequently attached to emails. An invoice, a scan, an image, a receipt, a document, a PDF and so on. Most emails with attachments are just hosts for viruses.
If you aren’t seeing these sort of emails, it probably means that your email provider is automatically protecting you and is not forwarding them to your inbox. You are lucky! Email isn’t the only source of viruses of course, and there are dodgy websites with malicious downloads too.
Security software is essential on Windows PCs, but deciding which one to use is not easy because there are so many to choose from and they all claim to do a great job. Do they though?
One way to determine which antivirus software is the best is to expose them to thousands of viruses and see how many they detect and how many get through and infect the computer.
This is not easy because few people have a spare PC to use for the test, they don’t have all the anti virus software to test it with, and they don’t have access to thousands of virus samples.
This isn’t something you can easily do at home, but luckily there are companies that do this for a living and you can simply go and see the results. For example, go to AV-Test, click the Home User button, and there is the results of a Windows 8/8.1 from April 2014 (this will be replaced by newer tests as they are completed). Click the Protection heading to sort by the quality of protection from malware.
The highest rated of the free antivirus products is Panda Cloud Antivirus Free and it beats Avast! And AVG freebies. Not every free antivirus product is in the list, but it still gives you a good idea as to what is currently good free options.
Virus Bulletin is another place to find information on the performance of antivirus software and you can view results in the VB100 section. Here is the Panda page. Panda security products have earned a perfect score in the last three tests and Panda Cloud Antivirus was used for two of them.
AV Comparatives is a very good source of information and it performs regular tests of current antivirus software. Go to the Real-World Protection Tests and click the Monthly Results button. Panda is among the best for the most recent month, July 2014, and if you mouse over the bar, it reports that it detected 99.9% of viruses. April and May test scores were 100%. It may have slipped 0.1%, but that is insignificant. Some of the others are really bad.
I ran Panda Cloud Antivirus Free for around six months because of results like these. There are other companies that regularly have great results, such as Kaspersky and Bitdefender, but they don’t have free versions. Panda seems to be currently the best option for protecting your PC against malware.
Lately though, I have been running Panda Internet Security 2015, which has the same great antivirus protection and also several other good features that boost security even further. It has antivirus, a rescue kit, firewall, Wi-Fi protection, data shield, parental controls, and online backup.
There are lots of online storage services, but in the off chance that you haven’t yet signed up with one, Panda Security customers get 2GB free courtesy of Mozy. Mozy is well known and has been around for years, so it is worth using if you need a bit more online storage. Personally, I don’t need it as I have a terabyte of online storage from Microsoft with Office 2013.
The firewall replaces Windows Firewall, which is OK for blocking incoming hacking attacks, but configuring it for anything else is a pain and beyond many people. Panda’s firewall is much easier to configure if you want to block outgoing connections. It lists programs that have incoming and outgoing permissions and you can configure them individually or just leave it to the program to decide.
The one thing I don’t like in the firewall is the lack of information about the settings. There is a long list of intrusion prevention on/off switches with names like Ip explicit path, Smart ARP, SYN flood, Smurf and so on. Most people won’t have a clue as to what these do and Smurfs to most people are those little blue people. You just have to cross your fingers and hope the default settings are OK.
The Data Shield is designed to prevent unauthorised programs that try to access your files, such as those in your Documents folder. Programs can be allowed or denied access to documents, images, audio and video. It is a useful feature if you really want to lock down your PC.
A Wi-Fi monitor shows the devices on the Wi-Fi network and this would enable you to spot someone using it who shouldn’t be. It is useful, but it could be better. The problem is that it displays the manufacturer of the connected device. Sometimes it is obvious what the device is, but sometimes it is not.
My router appears as Shenzhen Huawei Communication Technologies, which is the manufacturer, but it is more commonly known as BT Home Hub. It took me a minute or two to realise that. An iPad, iPhone and Apple TV just show as Apple devices. My router displays friendly names for devices like Rolands-iPad, MichaelasiPhone and so on. Why can’t Panda firewall?
The Process Monitor records the activity all programs, including background ones that don’t appear on the screen. It automatically blocks bad programs and you can view a report on what program ran, when it ran, and what websites it accessed. It does a good job, although you do need to be fairly technically knowledgeable to use the information yourself. Most people probably won’t look at it, but it is there if you need it.
A Safe Browsing module keeps an eye on web browsing. Unlike some security software, Panda Internet Security does not add any toolbars or buttons to browsers. They tend to get in the way, so Panda’s system is cleaner and simpler. It just works in the background blocking malware or spyware on the internet.
There is a lot more to Panda Internet Security than I have covered here and it is packed with features. You don’t have to use all of them and you can turn items off or on as required. Everyone is different and I prefer lightweight security that doesn’t get in the way. Panda is very quiet and it just gets on with it in the background, which is nice.
With the great antivirus test scores Panda has been receiving lately, you should at least have Panda Cloud Antivirus Free, For those that need more security, Panda Internet Security is recommend. Overall it is a great program.