Installing antivirus software is now more critical than you may think. With everything from malicious malware causing havoc on essential devices to sneaky phishing scams leading unsuspecting victims to their financial doom, the need for digital protection is becoming an ever-growing commodity. 

You don’t need me to tell you the risks of surfing the web these days. Cybersecurity experts Check Point Research found that global cyberattacks increased by 38% in 2022, Abnormal Intelligence saw a 48% increase in email phishing attacks last year, and even top dog Twitter confirmed a hacker stole 5.4 million accounts. Heck, researchers even expect the recent surge in AI tech, like ChatGPT, to allow cybercriminals to whip up malicious code for them. Yikes, indeed.

It’s clear that threat actors are finding new methods to infiltrate our precious systems, and I’m rightfully paranoid enough to start investing in some personal online security. With a plethora of the best antivirus software to choose from, such as Bitdefender, McAfee, Norton, and more, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to the best defence against viruses, malware, and worse. 

“But what’s best for me?” That’s the question I’ve been pondering, and if you find yourself asking the same thing, here are some pointers to look out for when picking the right antivirus software to keep you safe online. 

Finding the best-value antivirus software

The best antivirus apps on the market have you covered when it comes to detecting, preventing, and destroying all kinds of malware on your device. From viruses and adware to ransomware and Trojans, this software will keep financial information in check and your private credentials, well, private. But just because they offer that same protection doesn’t mean they all cost the same. 

Bitdefender logo

For example, Bitdefender’s Antivirus Plus plan offers many features, such as fast vulnerability scans, multi-layered ransomware protection, and even throws in a limited VPN – all for $40 a year. However, unlike McAfee, this plan only offers safety for three Windows PCs. A single McAfee Antivirus Plus subscription comes in at $65 for two years and will protect five devices of your choice: Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. 

With this in mind, it’s always good to keep your options open, despite what many “best lists” consider the best antivirus to get. If you’re like me and have a mishmash of devices (as a tech journalist, it comes with the territory), McAfee’s plan would be my first choice, even though it may offer fewer bonus features than Bitdefender. 

Each antivirus software will have its pros and cons (some more than others), but it comes down to your personal needs. Only have one device and couldn’t care less about an added VPN? Norton’s Antivirus Plus subscription may be the ticket, as it’s only $39.99 for the first year and has a password manager for good measure. The point is to be aware of what you need; who wants to avoid having a few more dollars in their wallet? 

Make the most of bonus features

Antivirus software’s sole purpose is to keep nasty cyber threats at bay, but they also come with a bundle of perks. From Trend Micro‘s Pay Guard providing a safer way to carry out online banking and shopping to Norton’s Dark Web Monitoring feature, there are plenty of ways to take advantage of an antivirus’s bonus features. 

Since I’m looking to stay as protected as can be on my devices, it goes without saying that I’m all for added security. With the recently updated Avant One, I can get a VPN with 5GB to mess around with, ad blockers, webcam protection, and more on top of its high-level malware and anti-phishing scans. There’s no need to add another VPN subscription to the cost, just an all-in-one package that keeps my private data out of hackers’ hands. Sure, they may not be as good as the best VPNs, but they do the job.

Norton Secure VPN on smartphone

Of course, some antivirus subscriptions will provide better bonuses than others. For example, when signing up to Bitdefender, you can get a VPN Premium subscription as a separate $45 add-on. However, McAfee offers a more enticing unlimited VPN option for its $65 two-year plan at no extra cost (provided you’re enrolled in its auto-renew scheme). 

Depending on what you’re looking for, you can get 2GB of PC cloud backup storage, a password manager that can store your credit card information, and a firewall for Windows or Mac if you opt for the Norton Antivirus plan. As for features you didn’t even know could be valuable, Bitdefender stuffs a Wi-Fi Security Advisor to notify you about security risks on your Wi-Fi network, a File Shredder that leaves no trace of whatever you delete, and Safepay – an isolated browser that makes sure you’re entirely protected when completing a transaction online. 

When browsing for the antivirus software of your choice, look for the perks that will complete your all-in-one security suite. For me, that means having a password manager included. 

It’s about trust 

An antivirus app could have all the extra features in the world, but if it can’t protect me from an impending malware threat, it’s completely useless. 

Now, antivirus protection isn’t wholly bulletproof, as cybercriminals work around the clock to develop more sophisticated malware to sneak past guarded systems. However, some software can detect more malware, phishing scams, or ransomware than others, so if you’re after the best protection possible, you’ll want to check some antivirus lab testing from AV-Comparatives

AV Comparatives
AV-Comparatives Malware Protection test (September 2022)

For instance, Avast delivers near-flawless test results regarding malware, phishing, network, and browser protection. On the other hand, while Trend Micro still has a high-security standard, it’s slightly more likely to be compromised. 

More often than not, the best antivirus products will block any harmful virus or cyberattack, but it’s good to do some background research before investing in a particular package. 

McAfee may be the ideal choice for me regarding price, features, and trustworthiness, but it could be wildly different for you. So, if you’re tired of worrying about your personal information and banking credentials being at risk, follow the steps and see which antivirus software fits you like a glove.