Pitfalls of Free Antivirus Software

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You get what you pay for. That is especially true when it comes to free antivirus software. Computer security experts agree that while free antivirus software can be useful once your computer has been infected with a virus, it often doesn’t do much to help prevent computer viruses or malware attacks.

“All free antivirus programs are light versions of antivirus software, to give you basic protection,” said Jake Ruddy, a Director at ProComputer Services.com. “This is not enough for the average user.”

That means many of the programs will only work once your computer has been infected with a virus.

AVG is a popular, free antivirus software that does basic scanning and link scanning. What it does not do is scan files you want to download, before you perform any free antivirus download. This creates a much higher chance of being infected.  AVG also ignores your inbox, so you are left vulnerable to viruses that come through your email as attachments.

Avira is another free antivirus service that doesn’t include a “Web guard” feature to help prevent you from going to malicious websites. It also does not have real-time monitoring for suspicious file activity.

  • Since these free programs are often lesser versions of paid virus protection, you are also likely to get bombarded with notifications and pop-ups telling you that you are only getting minimum protection and encouraging you to upgrade to the full protection.
  • Another danger when seeking out free software on the Internet is accidentally downloading fake software that is really spyware or malware that can harm your computer.

“I would strongly advise against consumers downloading any free anti-virus software, as the provenance may be unknown, and it may in fact be malware, or spyware, disguised as anti-virus software,” said David Howard, a social media marketer based in California. Howard speaks from first-hand experience after his laptop was overtaken by a virus while surfing the web. “The malware basically took control of my laptop, insisting that I visit a website to pay for the software to clean-up the virus,” Howard said.

Experts say if you’re computer keeps showing pop ups that require you to input a credit card to “clean” your computer or rid you of spyware, these are most likely malware that has already infected your computer.

Susan Risdal, a director at Enterprise Technology Services tells people to be especially aware when they get a popup screen telling them their computer has been infected. “If anyone happens to get a screen that says, “You have a virus, get our program to fix it” or some words to that effect, don’t click on anything on the screen.”

Instead, she tells people to, “hit Ctrl-Alt-Del and close your browser or hold the on/off button on your computer until it goes off. That screen is an invitation to download a virus that blocks access to your computer. Clicking any part of it will download the virus.”

If you are web savvy enough to avoid fake free software, support services are still often non-existent with legitimate free antivirus programs. “I think the biggest advantage of the paid verses the free is the level of support you have if something goes wrong and you need additional assistance,” said Liran Cohen, who works in Investor Relations in New York and has tried a number of free antivirus programs.

Antivirus software like Norton offer 24/7 customer service throughout the renewal of your subscription. To test the different levels of protection, before spending money make sure that you try some free antivirus software.


Vishal Gaikar

Article by Vishal

Meet Vishal Gaikar, the tech wizard hailing from Pune, India, who's on a mission to decode the digital universe one blog post at a time. When he's not tinkering with gadgets or diving deep into the digital realm, you can find him concocting the perfect cup of chai or plotting his next adventure. Follow his tech escapades on Twitter and buckle up for a wild ride through the world of innovation and geekery!

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