Seriously, You need to Update Your Antivirus Right Now!

Viruses and malware are real. You must run security software on all your PCs and laptops to keep your data safe. Here's why.

Microsoft vulnerabilities continued to rise in 2019, with a total of 700 vulnerabilities discovered. Of the 189 Critical Vulnerabilities discovered, 154 (81%) could have been prevented with even the most basic security software.

When it comes to software design and coding, human mistakes are not rare. In fact, software may do things the developer didn’t intend and couldn’t even predict.

Quite often, these “software bugs” are discovered by the developers themselves and promptly fixed. But not all bugs are created equal. While some bugs are nothing more than minor hiccups, others can have far-reaching consequences.

Hackers are constantly looking for vulnerabilities that they can exploit. Last year, a highly publicized attack, called WannaCry, targeted over 300,000 computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system by encrypting user’s data and demanding ransom payments in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

What are things that a hacker can do to you?

Many of the ways people are compromised these days comes through being fooled into clicking on links in emails, which then downloads malware, or clicking through to fake versions of websites which then ask you to log in, therefore stealing your account details.

The number of new malicious programs increases every day and it’s not just your PC or laptop that is at risk. Computers, smartphones, tablets, and even IoT-connected devices are all attractive targets for cyberattacks.

Any device that is connected to the internet is vulnerable to malicious software that can infect your system, hijack your usernames and passwords, steal your money and open credit card and bank accounts in your name, ruin your credit, request new account Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) or additional credit cards, make purchases, add themselves or an alias that they control as an authorized user so it’s easier to use your credit, obtain cash advances, use and abuse your Social Security number, sell your information to other parties who will use it for illicit or illegal purposes, share and spread your personal photos or lock you out of your online accounts.

It only takes one attack to hijack your computer or steal your identity.

Paid-for antivirus software employs AI for better threat detection. You'll also get extras such as password managers, as well as email and web-browser plug-ins which can warn you of dodgy attachments and websites.

“What antivirus is especially good at is making decisions for you,” according to Martijn Grooten, the editor of trade magazine Virus Bulletin. If you open attachments, click on links, and perhaps you’re not too technically savvy, it’s good to have an antivirus that can prevent the mistakes you may make in those situations.

For Grooten and Simon Edwards, the founder of SE Labs, a company that tests and ranks antivirus software, despite the fact that Windows’ own antivirus—called Defender—is a good alternative, it’s still worth getting a third-party one.

Even Joxean Koret, a well-known security researcher who has studied and found several bugs and vulnerabilities in antivirus engines and software, thinks average users—as in people who are unlikely to be targeted by nation-state hackers—should use antivirus.

Would you ride a motorcycle without a helmet?

It sounds scary, but because much of our lives are now conducted online, the threat is as real as ever.

Which route you take and which software you use is ultimately your decision. But don't think it won't happen to you. That's precisely when it will.

Following best practices such as keeping your software and operating systems updated, not downloading suspicious files, and avoiding links from untrusted sources will go a long way in protecting you. However, it’s not enough when a brand-new malware comes along and blows right past your system’s defenses.

There’s always going to be a chance that something will slip through the net. If you want the highest levels of defence, add a full security suite on top.

If you are using a Windows PC and don’t want to rely just on Defender, trade magazines and websites suggest TotalAV, Panda Security, Norton and McAfee.

Remember that no software is going to prevent you from giving your account details away if you’re careless online.

Stay vigilant, and stay safe.