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The 3 Best Antivirus for iPhone & iPad (2023 Update)
By Tibor Moes / Updated: September 2023
Apple iOS is a digital fortress. The App Store has a strict review process for new apps. And on iPhones and iPads, each app is isolated in a personal sandbox, keeping it separate from your sensitive data. But that’s not the whole story.
- The digital realm is full of potential pitfalls. For instance, phishing scams lurk in emails, texts, and websites. And even the iOS system isn’t immune to undiscovered zero-day vulnerabilities.
- Public Wi-Fi networks can be incredibly unsafe. Anyone who shops, socializes, and banks on their phone should have a VPN. It will encrypt your internet connection and keep your data safe on public Wi-Fi.
- Finally, your sensitive information might have already been hacked in a data breach. These happen all the time. A dark web monitor will scan the dark side of the internet for any misuse of your personal data.
Investing in an antivirus app isn’t just about getting a piece of software. It’s about safeguarding your peace of mind. Embark on your digital journey with the confidence that you’re protected every step of the way.
Norton Mobile Security
Ranked #1 of 28 antivirus for iOS
- Protection 100% 100%
- Privacy 100% 100%
Norton offers the best protection for your iPhone and your privacy.
- Protection: 100%. Norton offers web protection, identity theft protection, Wi-Fi security, device protection, and more.
- Privacy: 100%. Norton offers an unlimited VPN and anti-tracker, to restore your privacy online.
- Price: 100%. Norton is more affordable then nearly all competitors. It has great value for money.
Try it risk-free, thanks to its 60-day return policy.
McAfee Mobile Security
Ranked #2 of 28 antivirus for iOS
- Protection 100% 100%
- Privacy 80% 80%
McAfee offers excellent protection and privacy, but has unfair renewal tricks.
- Protection: 100%. McAfee offers web protection, identity theft protection, Wi-Fi scanner, system scanner, and more.
- Privacy: 80%. McAfee offers an unlimited VPN to restore your privacy online, but no anti-tracker like Norton.
- Price: 50%. If you turn off auto-renewal, McAfee will limit your VPN to 500 MB / day, which is unfair.
Try it risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
The best antivirus for iPhone & iPad
We have reviewed antivirus since 2014. Based on our in-depth tests of 28 brands, these are the best antivirus for iOS:
We have tested their web protection, privacy features, speed impact, false positives, and price. Scroll down to read the in-depth reviews.
Norton is the best antivirus for iOS.
It includes all essential features:
- Web protection
- Identity theft protection
- Unlimited VPN
And a range of bonus features:
- Wi-Fi security
- SMS scanner
- Vulnerability scanner
Most importantly, the VPN doesn’t have a data limit. By contrast, almost all other antivirus apps have a VPN limit of a few hundred MB / day. That’s not enough.
When you frequently surf on public Wi-Fi, Norton’s unlimited VPN will protect your privacy on those unsecured networks.
We highly recommend Norton for anyone who surfs, shops, or banks on their iPhone or iPad.
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Norton Mobile Security for iOS Review
Norton Mobile Security for iOS is the best antivirus for iPhone and iPad.
- The Unlimited VPN will keep your personal information private online.
- The Anti-Tracker will stop ads from following you across the web.
- The Web Protection will protect you from dangerous websites.
- The Identity Protection will monitor the Dark Web for your data.
- The Device Protection will keep you informed on security updates.
In short: Norton will significantly improve your online security and safeguard your privacy and identity. It’s the best security app for iOS of 2023.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) hides your iPhone’s IP address and encrypts your internet connection. This has several advantages:
- You’ll be anonymous online. A VPN will hide everything you do online from governments, Internet Service Providers, Facebook, hackers, and more. You can search, surf, socialize, and shop in anonymity.
- You are safe on public Wi-Fi. Typically, public Wi-Fi networks are unsafe. However, because a VPN encrypts your internet connection, other users on the network (including hackers) can’t see what you do online.
- You can avoid censorship. In some countries, specific websites are blocked (for instance, WhatsApp calls in Dubai or YouTube in China). You can avoid these restrictions and use those services by using a VPN.
The best thing about Norton’s Secure VPN is its unlimited data. VPNs offered by other brands usually have a data limit between 200 and 500 MB / day, which means that you can’t leave the VPN on. Instead, you’ll have to use it tactfully and, most importantly, not forget to turn it on.
With Norton, you can turn the VPN on once and forget about it. From that moment forward, you will be anonymous online. Forever.
The ad tracker is part of Norton’s VPN. When the VPN is activated, the Ad Tracker will block cookies that attempt to track your activity online.
Norton’s advanced Web Protection will detect and block dangerous sites before you visit them. It works with any iOS browser and can be activated with or without the VPN. Of course, we recommend turning on both simultaneously to maximize your protection from online threats.
Did you know that there is a hidden part of the internet that search engines can’t find? It’s called the Dark Web, and cybercriminals use it to buy and sell personal data, like credit card information. Norton can search the Dark Web to see whether criminals are trading your personal data.
It can monitor your:
- Email addresses
- Home addresses
- Phone numbers
- Credit cards
- Bank accounts
- Insurance information
- Driver’s license
- Mother maiden name
- And even your Gamer tag
Norton will check whether you have updated your iPhone or iPad to the latest iOS version. As newer versions are frequently security updates, they are critical. Interestingly, we often learn about a new update for iOS from Norton and not from our iPhone itself. So it’s a helpful feature.
Norton will check whether your Wi-Fi connection is password protected and encrypted. If you have the Auto-Connect feature of your VPN activated, it will automatically start the VPN if you connect to a compromised network.
Norton can filter dangerous text messages containing phishing links to malicious sites that attempt to steal your personal information.
Norton will identify iOS Calendar invites that contain dangerous links.
Is Norton Mobile Security for iOS the best antivirus for iPhone?
Yes, we believe it is. Unfortunately, most antivirus apps for iOS devices offer minimal benefit to Apple’s highly secure mobile operating system.
Norton is different. By combining an Unlimited VPN with Web Protection, Anti-Tracking, Identity Theft Protection, and a range of bonus features like Device Security, it is a truly valuable addition to the native security of iOS.
And compared to its rivals, McAfee and Kaspersky, Norton has no weak spots. Norton is far cheaper than Kaspersky, and Norton does not limit your VPN data when you turn of auto-renew (like McAfee does).
So it’s an easy conclusion: Norton is the best antivirus for iPhone.
You can try Norton risk-free, thanks to its 60-day return policy.
Ranked #2 of 28 Antivirus for iOS
McAfee is an excellent antivirus for iPhone, but not our favorite.
It has an excellent design, the three essential features (unlimited VPN, identity theft protection, and web protection), and a few bonus features (Wi-Fi scanner, system scanner, and protection score).
However, McAfee limits your VPN data to 500 MB / day when you turn off auto-renew, which we don’t like. If you pay for a service, you should get it completely, even if you don’t renew.
Therefore, we prefer Norton. But McAfee is a close second.
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McAfee Mobile Security for iOS Review
McAfee Mobile Security for iOS is a formidable guardian in the volatile landscape of the digital world. This review provides an in-depth look at the features McAfee offers and why it could be a vital asset in your cybersecurity arsenal.
Navigating the web can often feel like treading on thin ice. McAfee’s VPN feature, however, offers you robust security underfoot. It fortifies your online experience with a shield of bank-grade encryption, keeping your personal data and location private.
The ability to switch between different countries and alter your IP address further bolsters your defense against attacks, particularly when connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots.
But keep in mind that McAfee limits your VPN data to 500 MB / day when your turn off auto-renew. We’re not a big fan of these tactics. We believe that if you pay for a service, you should get it entirely, even if you don’t renew.
Identity protection is another major strength of McAfee Mobile Security. It vigilantly scans and monitors your personal data, alerting you to any breaches and suggesting prompt protective actions.
You can monitor up to 10 email addresses, passports, ID numbers, credit cards, and more, enhancing your cybersecurity net.
With the Internet teeming with harmful websites, McAfee’s safe browsing feature is a welcome respite. It automatically blocks malicious sites, and the integrated McAfee WebAdvisor extension gives you a sneak peek at a site’s risk level before you click.
This feature diligently safeguards you against phishing attacks and the accidental leak of personal information.
Wi-Fi & system scanner
A comprehensive Wi-Fi and system scanner keeps a watchful eye on your connections. It warns you when you’re about to connect to an unsecured Wi-Fi network and provides an analysis of network security, promoting safer online connections.
The scanner also notifies you when your iOS system needs an update, effectively reducing your vulnerability to emerging threats.
McAfee’s unique protection score provides a clear picture of your online safety. This score is based on the security of your monitored personal data and offers suggested steps to resolve any breaches, allowing you to take the initiative and boost your score.
Is McAfee Mobile Security for iOS the best antivirus for iPhone?
In conclusion, McAfee Mobile Security for iOS is one of the best antivirus apps for iPhone. With an arsenal of formidable features, including VPN, identity protection, safe browsing, and a system scanner, it ensures a fortified, secure, and private online experience.
Therefore, we have a slight preference for Norton. But both brands will provide exceptional protection for iOS.
You can try McAfee risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
Ranked #3 of 28 Antivirus for iOS
Kaspersky is an excellent antivirus for iPhone, but expensive.
It has all the essential features (unlimited VPN, identity theft protection, and web protection) and several bonus features (password manager, jailbreak detection, remote management, and more).
However, to access the unlimited VPN and password manager, you need to sign up for Kaspersky Plus. Which is an expensive product compared to Norton Mobile Security for iOS.
Therefore, we prefer Norton. But Kaspersky is an excellent option too.
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Kaspersky Antivirus and VPN for iOS Review
Kaspersky Antivirus & VPN for iOS is a multifaceted cybersecurity tool designed to ward off various digital threats and maintain your online privacy. Below, we’ll run you through its security and privacy features.
Kaspersky boasts an effective anti-phishing module, shielding you from harmful sites and emails aiming to snatch your sensitive data or trick you out of your money.
Kaspersky also offers an Unlimited VPN, which leaps into action to protect your data when it detects an unsafe public Wi-Fi connection. This feature, however, is reserved for paid subscribers, starting from the “Plus” plan.
Password management, another premium feature available from the “Plus” plan, empowers you to securely store, manage, and autofill your passwords. It’s a personal vault for your digital keys.
Data leak checker
One standout feature is the Data Leak Checker. If your sensitive data finds its way into the murky corners of the internet, Kaspersky promptly alerts you and advises you on how to prevent future leaks.
Intriguingly, Kaspersky offers jailbreak detection. If your iOS device has been jailbroken, potentially weakening its security barriers, the software alerts you and suggests corrective actions.
Secure QR scanner
This app goes beyond traditional antivirus features with its Secure QR Scanner. You can scan any code or barcode, and the software alerts you if it detects any associated threats, keeping malicious content at bay.
The app’s personalized alerts add another layer of security, sending you warnings, news, and tips based on your online habits.
With Kaspersky, family comes first. The Family Sharing feature lets you remotely install and manage security for your family members. It’s peace of mind, no matter where you are.
The software also offers Remote Management, allowing you to handle all your security needs through an intuitive interface.
Automatic updates ensure you always have the latest security measures. New protections are sent straight to your devices as soon as they’re released, like a cybersecurity delivery service.
And finally, the Social Privacy feature assists you in editing privacy settings across various social platforms, making it straightforward to disable location tracking, prevent targeted ads, and more.
Is Kaspersky Antivirus and VPN for iOS the best antivirus for iOS?
In conclusion, Kaspersky Antivirus & VPN for iOS is one of the best iPhone antivirus apps, packing many security features into a single application. From anti-phishing to jailbreak detection, data leak alerts to automatic updates, Kaspersky offers a robust defense against today’s cyber threats.
Whether you’re a social media user or a family-focused individual, this application caters to all, ensuring a safe and secure digital experience.
That said, to get the premium features (unlimited VPN and password manager), you need to sign up for Kaspersky Plus. Which, compared to Norton Mobile Security for iOS, is very expensive.
Therefore, we prefer Norton. But if you don’t mind the price, Kaspersky is an excellent choice as well.
You can try Kaspersky risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.
Below, we compare the the specifications of Norton, McAfee, and Kaspersky.
We’ve compared the user reviews of all antivirus brands. We’ve used the scores and review count of TrustPilot, a leading user review platform. However, take these results with a grain of salt, as some brands actively attempt to increase their ratings.
Personally, we are wary of exceptionally high scores. Especially those by brands such as TotalAV, known for aggressive marketing and sales tactics.
We consider scores between 4.0 and 4.5 good and realistic. Higher scores are dubious, and lower scores indicate that the brand might have a poor product or customer service. McAfee’s scores, for instance, are worrying.
Antivirus software buying guide
Below we cover a range of topics:
- What is antivirus software?
- How does antivirus software work?
- Does iOS need antivirus software?
- What are the built-in security features of iOS?
- How do we test antivirus software?
- How to choose the best antivirus software?
- What cyber threats can antivirus protect you from?
- What cyber threats can antivirus not protect you from?
- What antivirus software have we tested?
Clicks the links to be taken to the one of your choice:
What is antivirus software?
Antivirus software is a set of programs designed to safeguard your computer or mobile device against various forms of malicious software, often referred to as ‘malware.’ These can include viruses, worms, ransomware, spyware, adware, and Trojan horses, among others.
The primary role of antivirus software is to detect, neutralize, and remove these threats before they can harm your device or compromise your data. This software helps maintain the integrity of your system, protect your personal information, and ensure smooth, secure online interactions.
For more, read our blog post on what antivirus software is.
How does antivirus software work?
Antivirus software operates using complex algorithms and multiple detection techniques to identify and eradicate potential threats. It continuously monitors your computer for suspicious activities and scans files or directories for any signs of malware. Here are three of the primary methods that antivirus software uses to protect your system:
Signature-based detection is one of the earliest and most common methods used by antivirus software. It works by comparing potential malware against a database of known malware ‘signatures’. Each piece of malware carries unique identifiers or signatures. The antivirus scans your files and matches them against its signature database to identify any threats.
This method is highly effective at detecting known threats but can struggle with new, unknown malware.
To overcome the limitations of signature-based detection, antivirus programs use heuristic analysis.
This method is designed to detect previously unknown threats or new variants of existing malware. Heuristic analysis does this by examining the attributes and behaviors of files and code to identify potentially malicious activity. For example, if a program is trying to write data to an executable file, the heuristic scanner may flag this as suspicious behavior.
Behavior-based detection, also known as behavioral analysis, observes the behavior of software applications in real-time. It flags unusual or suspicious activity, such as unexpected system modifications, attempts to access sensitive information, or the alteration of system settings.
This method is particularly effective against zero-day threats – new, previously unseen malware that doesn’t yet have a known signature. When behavior-based detection spots unusual behavior, it can stop the suspicious program in its tracks, protecting your system from potential harm.
For more, read our blog post on how antivirus software works.
Does iOS need antivirus software?
Yes, while iOS devices are widely regarded for their robust built-in security measures, it’s essential to understand that they are not completely impervious to threats.
Apple’s stringent app review process and its policy of ‘sandboxing’ (isolating apps within their own operating environment) significantly reduce the risk of malware. However, this doesn’t eliminate the potential for cyber threats entirely. For instance, if an iOS user clicks on a malicious link in an email or a text message, they could still fall victim to phishing attacks, identity theft, or data breaches.
Moreover, the increasing sophistication of cyber threats means that hackers are continually seeking ways to exploit vulnerabilities, even in secure environments like iOS. Zero-day vulnerabilities, which are previously unknown software bugs that hackers can exploit before they are patched, represent a constant threat.
Besides, security apps offer features beyond just malware protection. They include VPNs for secure browsing on public Wi-Fi networks, safe browsing tools to protect against phishing attacks, identity theft protection, and even features for device performance optimization.
In summary, while iOS devices have strong built-in protections, the addition of a quality security app offers an extra layer of protection and peace of mind. It can help to fend off the evolving array of online threats and protect your personal information from being compromised.
For more, read our blog post on whether iOS needs antivirus.
What are the built-in security features of iOS?
The security of iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system, is notable for its robust, multi-layered approach. This security is often a key selling point for Apple devices. Let’s delve into these features, breaking them down to their core components while ensuring our explanation remains accessible.
- Secure Enclave: A dedicated coprocessor in Apple devices, the Secure Enclave, plays a pivotal role in data protection. It’s responsible for processing fingerprint data from the Touch ID, facial data from Face ID, and securely managing cryptographic keys. Because it’s isolated from the main processor and the rest of the device, it offers an added layer of security.
- Device Integrity Checks: On boot-up, Apple devices perform a series of integrity checks, ensuring that no unauthorized modifications have been made to the software.
- iOS Sandboxing: Every app runs in a restricted environment, or ‘sandbox’. This means apps can’t access the data of other apps or tamper with the system itself. If an app becomes compromised, the damage is confined to its sandbox, preventing widespread harm.
- Code Signing: Only apps signed by Apple can run on iOS devices. This ensures the authenticity of apps, protecting users from malicious software.
- Encryption: iOS employs end-to-end encryption for data both at rest and in transit. Meaning, whether you’re storing photos on your device or sending an iMessage, your data remains private.
- Touch ID and Face ID: Biometric authentication methods provide users with a secure, convenient way to unlock devices, make payments, or authenticate app accesses. By using biological traits, they offer a level of security hard to replicate.
- Password and Passcode Locks: Users can set alphanumeric passwords or numeric passcodes, further securing their device from unauthorized access.
App Store Vigilance
- App Review Process: Before appearing on the App Store, each app undergoes a rigorous review process to ensure it meets Apple’s standards for quality and security.
- Malware Scanning: Regular scans help keep the App Store free from malicious software. If any app raises concerns, Apple can remove it swiftly to protect users.
- Minimal Data Collection: Apple is known for its privacy-first approach. They collect only the necessary data, often keeping it on the device rather than their servers.
- Randomized Device Identifiers: Instead of using static identifiers, which can be used for prolonged tracking, iOS often uses randomized identifiers for processes like Wi-Fi. This reduces the ability to persistently track a device.
- Frequent iOS Updates: Apple consistently releases software updates, patching any identified security vulnerabilities. Users are encouraged to keep their devices updated for optimal security.
Find My iPhone
- This feature allows users to locate lost devices, remotely lock them, display a message, or erase their data. It’s a crucial tool for safeguarding personal information in case of device theft or loss.
In conclusion, Apple’s iOS is fortified with an array of security features, both hardware and software-based. From the underlying architecture to the visible user features, each element is designed to ensure data integrity, user privacy, and a seamless, secure user experience. With a holistic approach to security, iOS remains a top choice for many concerned about digital safety.
How do we test antivirus software?
When testing antivirus software, we apply a thorough and systematic methodology, which includes six factors, each with a different weighting:
- Anti-malware protection (30%)
- Security and privacy features (30%)
- Speed impact (10%)
- False positives (10%)
- Price (10%)
- Ownership and reputation (10%)
Each of these factors plays an essential role in our overall assessment of an antivirus software, thus enabling us to present a comprehensive, well-rounded review for our readers.
Anti-malware protection (30%)
When it comes to testing antivirus software, our approach is twofold. We conduct rigorous in-house testing, and we also take into consideration the results of professional evaluations by independent organizations like AV-Test.
In our in-house testing process, we meticulously scrutinize each antivirus program’s capabilities under real-world conditions. We expose our test PC to hundreds of malware samples via USB to challenge the efficacy of the malware scanner. It’s a rigorous trial by fire to see if the antivirus software can identify and neutralize every single one of these threats.
But our testing doesn’t stop there. We also simulate actual malware attacks by executing malware files and launching ransomware assaults. This stress test evaluates the antivirus software’s real-time protection and its ability to respond to active threats. It’s a decisive test of whether the software can protect a system from an ongoing cyber attack and prevent it from compromising your data.
In addition to our in-house evaluations, we pay close attention to the findings of independent testing institutions, such as AV-Test. AV-Test is a highly respected organization that routinely assesses antivirus products across various operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Android.
Their meticulous testing provides valuable insights into each antivirus software’s ability to detect and eliminate malware. It also evaluates other aspects like the impact on system performance and usability. The comprehensive results published by AV-Test offer an unbiased view of the antivirus software’s effectiveness and reliability in a range of scenarios.
This combination of in-house testing and analysis of independent evaluations gives us a comprehensive understanding of each antivirus product’s capabilities and potential limitations, guiding our recommendations to ensure you get the best possible protection.
Security and privacy features (30%)
Security and privacy features form a major part of our testing criteria, constituting 30% of our overall evaluation. We delve into various elements, each carrying its own significance in providing comprehensive security.
Web protection (anti-phishing)
Web protection shields your online activities from threats such as phishing attacks, where fraudulent websites try to trick you into providing sensitive information. We test this feature by visiting known phishing sites and tracking the software’s effectiveness in blocking access or warning us about the potential threat.
A firewall monitors incoming and outgoing traffic to your device, effectively blocking unauthorized access. We test the firewall’s efficiency by trying to connect to the device through different protocols and seeing if the firewall can block those attempts correctly.
A password manager securely stores your passwords, often with encryption, and auto-fills them when needed, helping you maintain unique, complex passwords for each account. We assess its performance by noting how well it captures and replays passwords on different websites and apps, and if it has other features like password generation or breach alerts.
Virtual private network (VPN)
A VPN encrypts your internet connection, making your online activities private and secure. We test VPN capabilities for speed, stability, and whether it can bypass geo-restrictions on streaming services. We also check the VPN’s no-logs policy to ensure your activities are not being tracked.
Parental controls allow you to manage and monitor your child’s online activities. We test this feature by setting up filters for inappropriate content and time limits, and then we try to bypass these restrictions to see if they hold up.
Identity theft protection
Identity theft protection monitors your personal information online and alerts you if it’s found in places it shouldn’t be. We test this by checking the software’s response to simulated breaches involving our personal data.
Secure cloud storage (cloud backup)
Secure cloud storage allows you to backup important files in a secure, offsite location, protecting them from local threats like ransomware. We test this by backing up and restoring files, checking for encryption and ease of use.
Anti-ransomware tools protect your device from ransomware attacks, which encrypt your data and demand a ransom for its release. We test these features by trying to run ransomware samples and checking if the software can block the attack and safeguard our files.
Dark web monitoring
Dark web monitoring scans the dark web for your personal information and alerts you if it’s found, signaling a potential data breach. We test this feature by checking the software’s ability to detect our information on simulated dark web databases.
An antivirus program can come with various entry-level functions, such as spam filters and secure browsers, and premium options like online storage with enhanced security. We consider the following bonus features worthy of your consideration:
- Ad Blocker
- Email protection
- File encryption
- File shredder
- Gaming mode
- Microphone protection
- PC maintenance features
- Secure browser (hardened browser to protect your online banking)
- Spam filter
- Startup optimizer
- Tune up tools
- Virtual keyboard
- Webcam protection
Speed impact (10%)
The speed impact of antivirus software plays a crucial role in our evaluation, accounting for 10% of our overall testing.
We leverage AV-Test’s performance tests to guide our analysis. These tests evaluate how antivirus software affects device performance in daily usage, such as downloading and installing apps, browsing websites, and copying files. A superior antivirus solution should offer robust protection without noticeably slowing down your device.
False positives (10%)
False positives, where legitimate files or applications are flagged as threats, can be just as problematic as missed threats. This aspect contributes 10% to our testing procedure.
For this, we utilize AV-Test’s usability tests, which provide insight into the rate of false positives generated by each software. The fewer false positives an antivirus program has, the more reliable and user-friendly it is.
The price of the antivirus software also makes up 10% of our testing. Here, we look at not only the cost but also the value for money. We examine what features are included in each pricing tier, and how these compare to the offerings of other products.
Furthermore, we pay special attention to differences between first and second-year prices, as some companies offer introductory discounts that increase significantly upon renewal.
Ownership and reputation (10%)
The reputation and ethical conduct of the company behind the antivirus software also play a significant part in our evaluation, accounting for 10% of our testing criteria. Some companies have faced criticism and backlash for questionable practices.
For example, Avast came under fire for selling user data through a subsidiary called Jumpshot. Such controversies can have a negative impact on user trust and the perceived integrity of the antivirus software.
Hence, we carefully review the company’s history, track record, and public reputation as part of our comprehensive testing process.
For more, read our blog post on how we test antivirus software.
How to choose the best antivirus software?
Selecting the best antivirus software involves considering multiple factors that align with your specific needs. Below, we delve into the key elements to help you make an informed decision.
Reliable protection from malware
The core purpose of antivirus software is to protect your device from malware. Thus, reliable protection is paramount. You should look for software that has high detection rates and is proven to fend off various threats, such as viruses, ransomware, spyware, and Trojans.
To keep up with evolving cyber threats, antivirus software should offer frequent security updates. Regular updates ensure the software can detect and deal with the latest malware strains effectively. Therefore, opt for software with a proven track record of providing timely updates.
The best antivirus software packages come loaded with a wide array of security features. These can include real-time scanning, web protection, firewalls, password managers, VPNs, and parental controls. Consider what features you need most and choose a product that offers those.
Despite offering robust protection, excellent antivirus software shouldn’t slow down your device noticeably. It should run in the background without disrupting your regular tasks. So, consider the software’s performance impact. Look for products that offer strong protection without a significant hit to your device’s speed.
Solid customer support is a vital aspect of a good antivirus solution. If something goes wrong, you’ll want prompt and helpful assistance. Therefore, look for software with a solid reputation for customer support, which may include live chat, phone support, and an extensive knowledge base.
First-year and second price
Lastly, consider the cost. While you might be attracted to a low first-year price, be aware that the cost can jump significantly in the second year. Look for software that offers good value for money over the long term, and ensure you’re comfortable with the price you’ll pay once any introductory discounts have expired.
If you have a specific operating system that you would like to protect, we probably have a dedicated antivirus comparison for it:
- The best antivirus of 2023 – For all OS.
- The best antivirus for Windows 11 – For Microsoft’s latest desktop OS.
- The best antivirus for macOS – For Apple’s desktop OS.
- The best antivirus for Android – For Google’s mobile OS.
- The best antivirus for iPhone – For Apple’s mobile OS.
- The best antivirus with a VPN – For both security and privacy.
- The best VPN providers – For a dedicated privacy solution.
Click the links to be taken to your comparison of choice.
What cyber threats can antivirus protect you from?
Antivirus software can shield users from a broad spectrum of cyber threats. While it’s not a foolproof solution, it plays a crucial role in safeguarding your digital space. Here are some of the key threats that antivirus software can protect you from:
Malware, short for malicious software, is a term used to describe all kinds of harmful software, including viruses, worms, and ransomware. It’s designed to damage or disrupt systems, steal data, or cause some sort of harm. Antivirus software can detect, quarantine, and remove such threats.
Adware is a type of software that downloads or displays unwanted ads when a user is online, often in the form of pop-ups. While not always harmful, adware can be incredibly intrusive and lead to more serious threats. Antivirus software can help block adware from your device.
Botnets are networks of computers infected with malware and controlled as a group without the owner’s knowledge, usually to perform malicious tasks. Antivirus software can prevent your computer from becoming part of a botnet.
Keyloggers are a type of surveillance technology used to record keystrokes and gather confidential information, like passwords or credit card details. Antivirus software can detect and remove such threats.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your data and demands a ransom to restore access. Antivirus software can prevent ransomware attacks and restore encrypted files in some cases.
Rootkits are a type of malware that grant unauthorized users access to a computer system without detection. They’re notoriously hard to detect, but many advanced antivirus solutions can identify and remove them.
Spyware is software that spies on your internet activity, gathering information without your consent. Antivirus software can shield your device from spyware, protecting your personal and financial information.
Named after the Trojan horse, this type of malware disguises itself as legitimate software to trick users into installing it. Once inside, it can perform various malicious tasks. Antivirus software can help detect and remove these hidden threats.
Viruses are a type of malware that can replicate and spread, damaging systems and files in the process. Antivirus software was originally created to combat computer viruses, and it’s still one of its primary functions.
Computer worms are malware that spread copies of themselves from computer to computer. Unlike viruses, they don’t need to attach themselves to an existing program. Antivirus software can prevent worms from spreading and remove them from your system.
What cyber threats can antivirus not protect you from?
While antivirus software is a strong line of defense against many security threats, it’s not an all-inclusive solution. There are certain cyber threats that require a more comprehensive approach, often involving user awareness and vigilance. Here’s a look at some of these threats:
Phishing attacks involve attempts to steal sensitive data like usernames, passwords, and credit card details by disguising as trustworthy entities in electronic communications. While some antivirus software include phishing protection, no tool can catch every single phishing attempt, as it largely depends on user awareness and education.
Online scams come in many forms, from fraud emails promising large sums of money to fake websites posing as genuine ones. While an antivirus may block known fraudulent sites or flag certain emails, it can’t protect you entirely from falling prey to cleverly disguised scams. Awareness and skepticism when dealing with suspicious emails or websites are the best defenses.
For more, read our blog post on online scams.
Social engineering is the use of deception to manipulate individuals into revealing confidential information. This can take place via email, phone calls, or even in-person interactions. As it involves human judgment, antivirus software cannot completely safeguard against it. Regular education and training about social engineering tactics are crucial.
For more, read our blog post on social engineering.
A zero-day exploit is a cyber attack that occurs on the same day a weakness is discovered in software. As it happens before the vendor has a chance to create a patch, even the best antivirus software can’t defend against it. Frequent software updates and using software from reliable vendors can help minimize the risk of such exploits.
For more, read our blog post on zero-day exploits.
What antivirus software have we tested?
We have tested 28 antivirus brands, ranging from entry-level free antivirus programs, to mid-range paid antivirus software and full-featured internet security suites. Below is the list of the 20 most important brands:
- Bitdefender Antivirus
- McAfee Antivirus
- Microsoft Defender (Windows Defender)
- Norton Antivirus
- PC Matic
- Trend Micro
The best antivirus programs are Norton 360 Deluxe, Norton 360 Advanced, and Bitdefender Total Security. By comparison, the other antivirus software cost too much, offer less capable protection from malware threats, or have no unlimited VPN access.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are the most frequently asked questions.
What is the best antivirus for iPhone?
Do you need antivirus for iPhone?
It’s crucial to have antivirus protection for your iPhone, given today’s increasing cyber threats.
How does antivirus work?
Antivirus software works by scanning and removing harmful files from your device, keeping it safe from digital threats.
Will antivirus software slow down your iPhone?
Quality antivirus software like Norton or McAfee won’t slow down your iPhone, while less well-optimized options might.
Is a free antivirus software safe?
Free antivirus software can’t guarantee the same level of safety as paid options. It’s best to invest in robust protection.
Is Kaspersky still safe?
Kaspersky, despite its Russian origins, has no proven safety concerns. It remains a viable antivirus option.
Languages and sources
Similar pages in other languages on SoftwareLab.org:
Below are the sources and tools we’ve used to test the antivirus software:
- Apple Platform Security
- AV-Comparatives Consumer
- AV-Test Android
- AV-Test macOS
- AV-Test Windows
- GRC Firewall Test
- Microsoft Defender
- SpeedTest VPN
- Trustpilot Security Software
Author: Tibor Moes
Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab
Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.
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