Emails, invoices, photos, contacts, banking – almost your entire life is on your computer. If a virus or malware damages, encrypts (with ransomware) or steals the data on your computer, it can have unpleasant to harmful consequences. Malware is becoming more sophisticated, which is why home users and system administrators alike are looking for ways to stop these digital threats. Still, we recommend looking at your digital habits first rather than antivirus software.
In fact, antivirus and security software can also cause privacy problems. For example, Avast and AVG have been caught collecting and reselling users’ personal data in the past. And Kaspersky Lab, a Russian-based cybersecurity company was also embroiled in a major privacy scandal a few years ago.
There are a few ways antivirus software can compromise your privacy.
The terms “virus” and “malware” are often used interchangeably. They are technically different, though. Malware is an umbrella term for any type of malicious software, regardless of how it works. A virus is a specific type of malware that replicates itself by inserting its code into other programs.
Because of said privacy concerns, About Privacy is reluctant to recommend antivirus software. Antivirus software can certainly detect unwanted programs and protect your system, but it is not enough on its own. If you are doing things that result in getting malware on your computer, it is often better to adjust your (computer) habits. Actually, you shouldn’t think of a virus scanner as a defense; virus scanners usually help clean up the mess after you’ve done something you (unknowingly) should not have done better. Because usually, the user himself is the weakest link that malware takes advantage of.
A few good habits to protect yourself from viruses and malware
There is software available with a good balance between security and privacy. In most cases, it is advisable to pay for software. Every business ultimately wants to earn something from its services and products.
At worst, the company sells your data to outside advertisers, installs nasty software on your system. Still, there are some free (open source) options that we will discuss further below.
It is not wise to install more than one antivirus program. In fact, running more than one antivirus program simultaneously can cause conflicts and errors that make antivirus protection less effective or not effective at all.
Unfortunately, most virus infections still occur on Windows computers.
Windows computers come with this virus scanner by default. Windows 10 Defender is just as good (if not better) as any other free antivirus solution. We therefore recommend that you just use this software.
Malwarebytes download and install.
Emsisoft has also earned a good reputation for providing reliable protection without (as far as is known) compromising the privacy of its users.
Download and install Emisoft.
Apple’s operating system makes it very difficult for malware to infect your computer. The standard virus detector for Mac, called “XProtect,” uses a database of known malware signatures to scan files on a Mac and detect files. We do not recommend using antivirus software on a mac. Of course, you should stick to the basic tips we described earlier (update, don’t just open every file). Should you still want to use antivirus software on your mac, these are the best options in our opinion.
Although we previously indicated that it is best not to use free software, we make an exception for software from Objective See.
Objective See was founded by security researcher Patrick Wardle. Objective See makes simple but effective OS X security tools. All of Objective See’s software is free and open-source software(FOSS).
For example, KnockKock checks whether your Mac is already infected with malware.
Malwarebytes download and install.
LuLu from Objective See is similar in operation to Little Snitch but has far fewer (attractive) features. The advantage of LuLu, however, is that it is free and open source software. In case you think what a strange name “LuLu”: in Hawaiian, the word “LuLu” means protection, shield or peace.
Little Snitch and LuLu are only available for Mac OS
Little Snitch is not an antivirus or malware software but a kind of advanced firewall. It allows you to monitor which apps connect to the Internet. Once connected to the Internet, applications can “make phone calls” to whomever they want. They usually do this for your benefit. But sometimes, as in the case of tracking software, trojans or other malware, they don’t do it for your benefit. Little Snitch offers many different features and blocking options to secure your computer.
Little Snitch download and install.