Purchasing an antivirus can be a tedious process, especially because there are so many options to choose from. What can help you distinguish these options is to develop an understanding of the features each option offers. If you know about these features and can determine which ones better match your needs, you can make an informed and sensible decision. Two of the security software options widely available everywhere are typically referred to as antivirus and internet security. However, for many, it is difficult to know the difference between antivirus and internet security.
In this article, we will compare antivirus software and internet security features to help you understand which might be a better choice. But before we do so, let’s start with defining them.
What does an antivirus do?
While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where the line is when it comes to where the feature sets of an antivirus end and those of internet security software begin, the basic idea is that antivirus software are more inclined towards protecting your computer locally, although the best antivirus software sometimes go beyond this. This means that if you have a file already on your computer and you are looking for a clean-up (e.g., getting rid of malware) or scanning files to make sure they aren’t spreading malware to your device, antivirus software is a great choice for you. Antivirus comes especially handy if you frequently use flash drives and external hard drives to transfer files between your device and ones that you don’t have much control over.
What does an internet security software do?
In addition to offering the features an antivirus does, internet security is concerned with protecting your online activities and preventing malicious files from accessing your computer before there is even a need for removing them. This is a much more complicated task, and it is the main difference between antivirus and internet security.
To protect your device online, internet security software must: (1) possess an updated log of all malicious software known to exist; and (2) monitor all website activities beyond what you download, because it is possible for you to not download anything and still jeopardize the security of your computer/data if you are not careful or protected while surfing the web.
Malware: the most Common threat protected by the best Antivirus software
Malware is any type of malicious software that can be attached to emails, embedded in links, or hidden in ads that are designed to harm or exploit the computer or network it spreads to. It is made for a variety of reasons, some of which include causing disturbance to others or extorting money or data from institutions or individuals. There are various types of malware. The list goes from adware and Spyware to viruses and Trojans. Each is designed with different features, targeting different areas of weakness of computers or the lack of knowledge on the user’s part.
In the vast majority of malware attacks, the user has downloaded and opened the malicious file willingly, thinking the file was safe. Unless the file you are downloading off the web is a document downloaded from a trusted and reputable source, caution is necessary. We might think that emails are still the primary way for hackers and malicious individuals to infect our computers with viruses or spyware, but nowadays the dangers lie far beyond malicious links or files sent to your inbox. A vast majority of digital attacks occur as a result of the user willingly giving away information (through phishing of data) or willingly downloading a malicious file, thinking it was something else.
Common threats protected by the best Internet Security software
Phishing through email
Whether you are a business or an individual internet user, phishing attacks are inevitable. You have probably already seen email links or popups that typically use scare tactics to convince you to click on a malicious link intended to steal your personal information. Internet Security software typically tries to block these websites from the source: your email.
Your email is perhaps the most used medium for phishing attacks. Malicious websites impersonate legitimate, well-known companies or government organizations and try to convince you that you need to take immediate action on an issue they want to convince you that you have. These emails often put you in a hurry, making you more susceptible to bad, hasty choices.
The best Internet Security software can prevent such attacks by accessing your email and automatically blocking these emails that are much easier for the software to detect than the average, non-tech savvy person. But not all phishing attacks originate from your email; if you happen to click on a malicious popup, Internet Security can either block the website entirely or block any unsafe text box that asks for your personal information.
Phishing attacks are perhaps the most dynamic form of online attacks, and a healthy dose of common sense is one of the best defenses against them. Nevertheless, if you prefer not to put all of that pressure on yourself, Internet Security software is a powerful supplement to your common sense and caution.
Passwords becoming vulnerable to misuse
Many of us use the same password or variations of the same password for a variety of accounts to prevent the hassle of forgetting passwords. But when you use the same password for your account on a gaming app and your bank account, you run the risk of losing a lot of money if your gaming app account is hacked.
To combat this dilemma, Internet Security software can work as a password manager, keeping track of your passwords and login information across all your accounts on various websites and warn you in case of a data breach on any of those websites. This way, not only do you have an easier time logging into all your accounts, but you can also feel comfortable setting a unique password for each account that does not become vulnerable if one of your accounts is caught up in a data breach or a hacker’s scheme.
Suspicious sites are one of the easiest ways malicious actors can take advantage of people and extort their information or spread malware. The databases of the best Internet Security software are constantly updating with reports of websites with malicious activities, and you might just stumble upon one of them as you are browsing the web. Therefore, it helps to have a service that can warn you before you enter any of these websites. The software can even outright block access to certain sites if it has concrete reports on the nefarious nature of the site. This feature is probably one of the most significant differences between antivirus software and internet security.
Unsecure internet connections
If you are using public WiFi at your local coffee shop or library, your unencrypted information and activity is at risk of being monitored by other people on the network. This means that even your login credentials to different accounts can be vulnerable. Even the Internet provider of the WiFi you are connecting to might have access to your data as they typically ask users to install a digital certificate before using the WiFi network, which gives the WiFi network provider certain freedoms over your data.
Some of the best Internet security software solves this issue by masking your IP through a VPN connection that keeps your data and activity safe from being watched by unwelcome eyes.
It’s all about the plans
To protect yourself from the various types of threats mentioned above, different companies provide different plans for their protection services. The naming scheme can differ among them, and the types of plans could go as high as four or five, but the two main categories are antivirus software and Internet Security plans.
While trying to compare antivirus and Internet Security software is difficult (since different brands might provide different feature sets within those plans), we will try our best to narrow it down based on our observations of plans provided by various renowned security software providers in the industry.
|Local malware protection||✔||✔|
|Suspicious activity notifications||✔||✔|
|Webcam use alert||✔||✔|
|Multi-platform (Android, iOS, Windows, macOS)||X||✔|
|Access to secure VPN connections||X||✔|
|Blocking suspicious websites||X||✔|
|Email client protection||X||✔|
The features listed in the above table are not necessarily accurate across all brands. Some features might not even be listed in either of the columns in the table above. Norton, which offers some of the best antivirus software programs in the market, offers a plan specifically geared towards gamers that offers system optimization features on top of the cloud backup feature found in all of their plans (size limits vary). Because of this, it is very important that you check the different plans your brand of interest offers and even read up on the features that they mention in a table similar to the one above.
Choosing a cybersecurity plan can be a tough decision, especially if you are on a budget. Many antivirus brands offer over four different plans, some for the average user, and others for a more niche audience.
If you are confident in your ability to regulate your online behavior and are only concerned about files you transfer in between computers with a flash/hard drive, perhaps an antivirus plan would suffice for you. If you are a less tech-savvy user, however, and want peace of mind when browsing, you should consider the more comprehensive plans that will also provide online safety as well as local protection.
But even if you get the most comprehensive plan, you must note that it is always a good idea to increase your knowledge about online safety as the world of internet scams, attacks, and threats, in general, are ever-evolving and sometimes even the most up-to-date security measures might fall behind. So, make sure you keep learning as you stay protected.
Interested in learning more?
As the distributor of some of the best antivirus software brands in the region, Newcom is ready to help in any possible way for you to make the right choice about your cybersecurity needs.
Whether you are a governmental organization, corporation, educational institution, or other entity, we encourage you to reach out to us to discuss your needs and what might be the best option for you. If you are an end-consumer and would like to reach out, we would be happy to help by connecting you to one of our partners who can better assist you with your purchase.