by Neil J. Rubenking, PC Magazine
Isn’t the built-in security on today’s PC, phones, and tablets good enough? The answer depends on the OS you’re running.
Rich people don’t get rich by wasting money. So why spend money purchasing antivirus protection for your devices? Is that a waste of money? Overall, the answer is no, it’s money well spent. Depending on your operating system, adding antivirus protection beyond what’s built in ranges from a good idea to an absolute necessity.
Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS all include protection against malware, in one way or another. For some, protection takes the form of a full-on antivirus. For others, security is baked into the OS thoroughly enough that malware has a really hard time doing anything. Either way, you can improve your protection by installing a third-party antivirus.
Plan B: The Windows Defender Story
Microsoft has offered some variety of built-in antivirus protection for Windows since the release of Microsoft Anti-Virus for DOS in 1993. The core of that product was purchased by Symantec and became the original Norton Antivirus. And wow, was it ever simple-minded. At release, it could detect around 1,200 specific viruses, and users had to install any updates manually.
Fast-forward to today, and you get Windows Defender, a rather more impressive product. Oh, it went through some rough stages developmentally. When the independent testing labs started including Windows Defender, it managed to score below zero in some tests. But that was years ago, and this tool has been steadily improving its scores.
It’s now called Microsoft Windows Defender Security Center, because in addition to providing antivirus protection it also manages other security features such as Windows Firewall. In our testing, however, we discovered some significant limitations. For example, it scored poorly in our hands-on phishing protection test, which uses real-world fraudulent sites scraped from the web. In any case, its phishing protection and its defense against malware-hosting sites both only work in Microsoft browsers. Do you prefer Chrome? Firefox? Sorry, you get no protection.
Microsoft recently added a kind of ransomware protection, in the form of a component that prevents unauthorized changes to files in the Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, and Favorites folders. It’s turned off by default, perhaps with reason; we found it annoying that ransomware protection kicked in every time an installer wanted to place an icon on the desktop. In addition, you can’t authorize a program from the popup warning the way you can with the similar feature in Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Trend Micro, and others. Rather, you must dig into Settings to add an exclusion.
Windows Defender’s own developers seem to consider it a Plan B, rather than a main solution. If you install a third-party antivirus, Windows Defender goes dormant, so as not to interfere. If you remove third-party protection, it revives and takes up the job of defense again. The best antivirus programs, even free antivirus tools, perform significantly better in testing and offer more features.
DCL: I’ve included this article because it is very relevant to today’s Internet free for all. “Buyer be prepared rather than sorry”!