A dirty little secret – Antivirus software is nearly useless.
You haven’t heard this before because there is no money to be made telling people not to buy stuff. Also, the big powerful companies who sell AV software may come down on companies who say this. Speaking up could cause public relations problems.
There is essentially no evidence that antivirus software makes you safer and growing evidence that it makes you less safe. Yes, scans sometimes find viruses old enough to be in a database. The problem is, they never find new ones. It’s trivial for a criminal to modify virus code slightly, recompile it and release it again into the wild. It will have a new signature and anti-virus scans won’t see it. The better scanners are capable of considering signatures based on fragments, but this is not reliable.
It is becoming more clear that antivirus software makes you less secure. If you want technical details, take a look at some of Googles’ Project Zero. Or how it can make your browser less secure. Basically, this is because anti-virus software runs with escalated privileges and injects itself into running software. If you are skeptical, run a search for, “antivirus software vulnerabilities“. Or check out the vulnerabilities database directly. You will find hundreds of entries.
Marketing material for AV software sometimes implies that it will work in ways which are impossible. The statements made to sell it are not flat out lies, but close. Windows has antivirus built in for free, Windows Defender. Since it’s free, the little bit of good it might do is worth the price. The virus signature database it uses has been shown to lag slightly behind the others, but the difference is so small that it’s irrelevant. None of them manage the impossible task of staying totally up to date.
Having AV software running on your computer may make you feel safe, like it’s watching out for you. That is a false sense of security and that’s dangerous. No software is capable of stepping in as needed to keep you out of trouble. It won’t stop you from doing something unsafe and it’s unlikely that it will notice when you have.
There is no way around it. You need to have a basic understanding of security to keep yourself safe online. It’s about the same as driving a car safely. It’s easy, but you will run off the road if you don’t pay attention. Keep the software you are running up to date. Keep the operating system on your computer up to date. Never open attachments you are not expecting. Never go to web sites you are warned away from. Use decent passwords. If you are unsure you know enough, here is a page which talks about how to stay safe at length.
If you uninstall your AV software you will not only be more secure, you will probably find that everything runs faster.