5 features to look for when choosing antivirus software for Windows

25 Mar, 2021 5 min read
John Tunay
John Tunay
Technical Product Marketing Manager
While everyone knows viruses and malware exist, few people know that the way they distribute themselves has evolved. The inconvenient truth is, it’s easier than ever for new malware to take full advantage of the internet and turn itself into a much greater threat than ever before. The irony is, downloadable anti-virus software has also grown in accessibility - and a lot of them are free!

So the question beckons, in a time when viruses and malware can multiply and reinvent at an alarming pace, what features should people look for to ensure their devices are protected?

Essential features to look for in an anti-virus

Regardless if you are getting free or paid anti-virus software, there are five features that you should look out for when shopping:

1. Your anti-virus software should provide automatic full system scanning

At a bare minimum, any paid or free anti-virus software should be able to scan your computer for malware or viruses, and preferably it should be able to do this automatically.

How it does so automatically depends on your preference. One method is to schedule scanning which allots specific times of the day when it scans for any threats at a predetermined  frequency. Some anti-virus software allows the user to manually configure this to their preference, while others do it when the software detects that the computer is idle and has resources to spare for a full scan.

2. Your anti-virus software should provide real-time protection

Real-time protection capabilities allow anti-virus software to immediately react to a potential threat as soon as it enters your system or makes its presence known.

To achieve this, on-access scanning will check files whenever you use them. This is important since viruses latch on to clean files when they have the opportunity to do so, and a previously safe file might already be a virus that can spread if left unchecked.

3. Your anti-virus software should provide automatic program & virus updates

A definite mainstay in today’s anti-virus software market, or any other software for that matter, is that automatic updates are crucial. Aside from addressing any bugs or vulnerabilities, traditional anti-virus software relies on downloading new virus signatures discovered to increase its detection rate, reduce false positives, and actively protect against the latest threats.

Another aspect worth looking into is whether there is an option to turn this on or off. While there is very little reason to turn off automatic updates, cautious users of security solutions prefer manual updates to avoid the risk of an anti-virus accidentally deleting critical files due to a faulty update.

4. Your anti-virus software should provide email protection

While the prevalence of instant messenger mobile applications has certainly dampened the use of email, it is still the go-to service for creating and managing accounts and online transactions - which essentially makes it a prime target for email-based attacks and spoofing.

Some modern anti-virus solutions include this feature but usually only with paid versions. This is because they have to account for variations to enable this feature - such as whether it should only work on certain email clients (i.e. Outlook) or whether it is an add-on to popular web based email clients (i.e. Gmail).

5. Your anti-virus software should provide web browser protection

An internet browser is a dangerous thing. It opens up a world of infinite possibilities and a vast array of information but it also serves as a gaping hole whereby threats can enter. That’s why it's better to have browser protection when using certain types of anti-virus software. 

However, the way browser protection works varies across different solutions. Some anti-malware solutions offer protection regardless of which browser is being used - a common approach is to install a particular browser plugin made by the same vendor. Others also develop their own spin of popular browsers such as Google Chrome with the goal of creating a more complete and secure browsing experience.

It’s important to ensure that these added protection features are offered including the online account protection & URL checkers that stop you from visiting known dangerous web pages.

But, here’s a secret not everyone talks about -  the world of cybersecurity has evolved and your anti-virus needs help

While these five features are the baseline set of requirements when it comes to choosing an anti-virus software, it’s no longer 1995 and the reality is most anti-virus solutions need help. The main problem with traditional anti-virus solutions is that they require a constantly updated deny list of known threats and cannot detect unknown threats. This is a bit like driving with your rear-view window. 

A newer approach and in our opinion, a better alternative to anti-virus software is to use intuitive endpoint application control (read to learn more about what is application control?) software that includes anti-virus features. CatchPulse uses the power of AI to create a personalised allow-list which will deny both known and unknown threats. When the AI is in doubt, rather than deny by default, (which can have unintended consequences), it will alert the user rather than make a decision. This block-first approach makes 100% Windows malware protection possible, whereas the best anti-virus protection rates on the market are only 99%.

The best part is, CatchPulse protects and informs without interfering with your existing systems or processes. CatchPulse also works with any existing anti-virus programs as you can set it up so it’s not registered as an anti-virus. This means it will coexist with any existing anti-virus you have installed. If you later decide to install another anti-virus, there is no need to disable CatchPulse because this solution works differently from traditional anti-virus software.  

For enterprise endpoint protection, visit CatchPulse Pro page to learn more and get a free 60-day trial.
For home malware protection, visit our CatchPulse page to learn more. 

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