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Best free antivirus software

Cybersecurity is no joke and all manner of malicious software is out there to get you, so take a look at CBR's list of the best free antivirus software.

By Joe Clark

Cybersecurity is an issue that never goes away. Hacks are becoming more and more prominent and a growing concern for not just the tech industry, but the world as a whole. With that said, even though the emphasis today is on privacy, data, and the IoT, basic security starts with securing your own systems. If you don’t have the correct tools to protect yourself then you could find yourself in dire straits relatively quickly.

Recently Intel Security ran a test on a router to determine current threat levels on unsecure systems. The router in question was left in idle mode and unsecured in order to gauge how quickly the device could be compromised. The test found that the unsecure device was affected by malicious software in just sixty seconds.

In order to protect yourself against these threats, both old and new, antivirus is just as important as ever. The only problem with this is that sometimes antivirus software can get pretty pricey, pretty swiftly. However, CBR has you covered, check out this list of the best free antivirus software to ensure that you’re properly protected.


1. AVG


antivirusAVG antivirus is one of the most popular protection solutions on the market today. AVG and Avast, after the latter acquired the former, have roughly 400 million users worldwide combined. When tested by independent labs it was found that AVG has an extremely high malware blocking score and a fairly decent malicious URL blocking score.

Unfortunately, as the system is incredibly thorough this means that a full scan of your computer, particularly the initial scan, can take some time. The software also had a lower than average score when tested for phishing protection, meaning users will have to use a bit more common sense if they go with this option.

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However, one of the biggest benefits of using AVG is that you become a part of its enormous sample size, meaning that you are one of the reasons that the software is consistently getting better. Currently AVG utilises machine learning drawing vast wells of data from its users and continually improving the service offered. If you don’t mind a slower scan and you can trust yourself to identify phishing scams, then look no further than AVG.


2. Avira


Avira antivirus is another tried and tested antivirus software, one which has more than stood the test of time. Avira was first launched in 1986 and since then has gone on to acquire hundreds of millions of happy, and more importantly, safe customers. With independent testing labs Avira was found to be excellent when used for blocking malicious URL’s and blocking ad trackers within browsers.

Unfortunately, many of these functions are not available to internet explorer users, meaning that to enjoy full protection you may have to change your browser to compensate for that. On top of this, Avira is yet another entry on the list that has a fairly slow scan rate and rated fairly poorly for anti-phishing protection.

If you’re not an Internet Explorer user and enjoy the benefits of platforms such as Chrome or Firefox then the protection offered by Avira is almost unparalleled. However, if you’re absolutely married to the idea of using IE then this may not be the correct antivirus solution software for you.


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3. Bitdefender


Bitdefender antivirus is something of an all-rounder when it comes to cyber security, not only does this well trusted software track down and eliminate any malicious attackers, it can also boast one of the best anti-phishing score of just about any of its competitors. In addition to this Avira also comes with a whole host of extra features including a password manager, secure browser options, and a file shredder for sensitive documents.

The password manager is a handy addition, as most people tend to rely on the same variations of one password for all of their profiles, which is a very bad habit by the way. However, the auto fill forms for much of the passwords can prove to be a bit inaccurate meaning you’ll most likely end up just having to remember your passwords anyway. Just don’t write them down.

That said, as well as being one of the best antivirus option available, every other option afforded by this jack of all trades works to perfection. If you can manage with a sometimes unreliable, but nonetheless secure, password manager then look no further than Bitdefender.


4. Avast


Avast antivirus is AVG’s other half, Avast acquire AVG in 2016 for $1.3 billion but rather than merge the products they have been kept as two separate entities, a move that has been well received by customers. In independent lab tests Avast free tested better than most premium antivirus solutions, particularly with regard to blocking malware.

Similar to Bitdefender, Avast comes with a vast array of bonus security tools so you can tweak and tinker with the system to develop the ideal security solution for your needs. Whilst Avast does scan faster than most of the other options on this list it also has a problem with its password manager, which has fairly limited features. Similarly, it also scored fairly low in anti-phishing tests.

Avast, is one of the gold standards of home internet security and you could certainly do worse. If phishing and password management are your primary concerns, you may want to try an alternative, but for everyone else Avast is a solid solution for your security needs.


5. Windows Defender


Windows Defender antivirus is Microsoft’s proprietary antivirus solution. The software comes packaged with both Windows 8 and Windows 10, but unlike a lot of built in software Windows Defender is a very competent security tool. One of the biggest advantages of using Defender is that, unlike other solutions on this list, its more than capable of dealing with phishing scams, standing head and shoulders above the competition.

However, the primary aim of antivirus software is to prevent viruses and unfortunately Windows Defender tested below average for both malware blocking and malicious URL blocking. Something that’s not really ideal for your primary defence solution.

Windows Defender may not be quite the solitary bastion it could be, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth using. The anti-phishing tech on offer is some of the best in the business and if used to augment your security, working in tandem with a more effective malware solution, then Windows Defender will make a great addition to your security protocols.

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