General discussion

Safe to say that any well-known antivirus will do the job?

Is it safe to say that any well-known antivirus will do the job?

Debates on who has the better antivirus and security software seem to be a thing of the past, as I don't come across them as much any more. My question to you is, are we past that point because in this day and age as long as you have a reputable security app -- free or paid -- running on your system, that's good enough to protect you? Are security brands just your personal preference rather than who is better at protecting you? For example, would Norton's antivirus give you less protection than, say, Avast or McAfee? If you say one will do better than another, how would we ever know? I would like to know. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

--Submitted by Webster T.

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I think we have to break this into two or more areas.

1. I'm encountering folk that expect antivirus and security software to protect us when we visit bad sites or get a cracked app from the web. Sorry no. Security suites and antivirus are not that good. You still need to practice safe computing plus keep backups of what you can't lose.


2. Ransomware. These often use social engineering to have the owner install a rogue app or better yet install some remote control app for "support."
Once you give up control of your PC to the fake, rogue or bad support, no security suite can save that PC today.

3. As to Norton, Avast and others, there are sites that score these suites. But having a great score won't save the PC if the one bad app/virus/malware happens to be something new and not covered by the suite.

This is why we:
A. Practice safe computing.
B. Keep backups of what we can't lose. These backups are not connected to this PC all the time or the malware or such can wipe that out as well.

TL;DR. Think of this like a game of Russian Roulette. The gun has a thousand barrels but it only takes one bullet. I know some owners that play this game with their PC and cracked apps. They lose it all every year or so.

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ESET - "not too bad"

My wife and I use ESET on our Mac computer. ESET is used by many small businesses (different version than teh one we use) and it is very good.

Fingers crossed...

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None are perfect. Name brands do provide some protection

It's an ongoing arms race, so any advice and opinion applies only for a limited time.

Currently, name brands do appear to be in a cluster of Good Enough. As R. Proffitt states, as long as you don't push the boundaries, anti-virus does provide protection against common classes of current viruses. And, they jockey among each other for which could be considered "Best" at any given time. Some are better at spotting one class, another better at a different class, etc.

But, new obfuscation and avoidance techniques are being tried all the time. That's why we do hear of wide infestations fairly regularly. So, again as R. Proffitt recommends, keep backups of your important files.

I don't want to turn this into a thread on backups. But, just plugging a USB drive into your machine occasionally is not sufficient. If you have malware on your machine, it can trash the backup while it's plugged in. And, if your machine crashes during the backup process for any reason, you could possibly lose both your main copy and your lone backup at the same time. So, look up good backup practices, or start a new thread on the subject. It has been covered here and elsewhere many times.

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1-2-3 backup

i always tell my friends to use 1-2-3 method. 1 on the local hard drive/sdd. 2. local ssd/hard drive that is removed from the computer when not in use for backup. 3. a cloud base/off site backup. a cloud based is the best. it is continuous and can support versioning. office site backup gives you for eyes only security but it is not continuous.

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They're all good but you need something more

Seriously, the anti-virus/anti-malware brands you mentioned are, in fact, all very effective, yet they all have some limitations.


1. Choose a brand you feel comfortable with. Your choice may be based on reviews, recommendation of a friend, cost, or a combination of all these.
*Important: Your chosen program runs continuously in the background. Only have one anti-virus/anti-malware program running at a time. If you run two or more simultaneously there may be a conflict and it may noticeably slow your computer down.

2. Additional protection is available.

3. A second "on-demand" program is good to have. A very well-known one is the free version of Malwarebytes. You open it and run a scan whenever you want, but it doesn't run continuously in the background. Sometimes Malwarebytes can catch malware that other programs missed.

4. Your chosen internet browser will most likely offer a layer of protection by warning you of malicious websites (if you happen to click on a link that looks OK but actually goes to a bad website). Google Chrome, Firefox, and Edge all offer this.

5. Free programs from Avast, Avira, AVG, etc. offer excellent basic protection. Premium (pay) versions offer extras such as ransomware protection, etc. Read the fine print before paying for these.

6. An excellent layer of protection is to always use a "standard" or "guest" user account instead of a full-privilege administrator account when you're on the internet. Standard and guest accounts are harder to break into or infect than an administrator account.

7. Create a password for whatever account you decide to use. The password for a standard/guest account should be different from your administrator account. Make it long and strong, and something you can remember. Example: y0uCan'tgu355Mypa55w0rd! (you Can't guess My password!).

8. Use a password manager to create and store passwords for various internet websites. Usually, this will be a free add-on "extension" for your browser.

9. Purchase an external hard drive that plugs into a USB port on your computer. Make regular full "system image" backups. Connect the external drive, create a backup on the drive, and then UNPLUG the external hard drive until the next backup time (use Windows' "safely remove attached drive" feature before unplugging). Keep at least two full backups - one from last time plus the one you're making now. A good quality 2TB external or portable hard drive is around $60-plus. This backup-then-disconnect means if you are ever struck by horrible malware or ransomware you can restore your full system within an hour or less.

10. At home we use Windows 10 with Windows Defender anti-virus , Windows 8.1 with Avast free anti-virus, Malwarebytes free version, Chrome browser, Avast Secure browser (included with Avast free anti-virus), Firefox browser, LastPass free password manager on all browsers, a WD 2TB My Passport and a Toshiba Canvio 2TB (both are physically small portable/external hard drives).

11. My backup-backup plan is if something goes wrong after all that, blame it on my girlfriend. Wait! - is she looking over my shoulder right now ??

Note: Post was edited by forum admin to add line breaks for easier reading.

Post was last edited on October 17, 2019 3:12 PM PDT

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Accept the blame. Even it it's not your fault.

Story time: A few years back my wife insisted we turn down a street that would lead us onto a local military base with no U turns. She was insistent and we had time so I said OK.

As we got to the gate I told the guard "Sorry I made a wrong turn." She was silent which helped move this along as I was only going away for a week rather than life (kidding.)

After we got that sorted, you can imagine the positive results over the next year.

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This backup strategy is not sufficient

Yes, the USB drive cannot be infected/encrypted while it is unplugged. But, some malware sits and waits for a while before letting you know it's there. Therefore, you could be backing up already-encrypted files. Which overwrites your previous backup. And, some malware watches for drives to be plugged in, and immediately begins encrypting the files there.

And, yes, having more than one does help some. But, if you back up regularly, then each of those two drives are going to get plugged in soon after the malware makes it onto your computer. And, if you back up rarely, then there's a good chance that an important file won't be part of the safe copy.

You really need a backup solution that uses a conduit that doesn't show up as a drive to Windows. A cloud backup service. Or, an FTP site that you don't use Explorer to access. Or, give permissions to a different machine to pull the files from this machine, but that doesn't have write permissions the other direction. Something along those lines.

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Gee whiz, do i have to spell out every step? Scan Before Backup is for many of us a standard move. You can even restart in Safe Mode prior to scanning, or run a scan offline or from an external source. You can employ more than one external drive for backups and alternate between them, thus providing one more sidestep to avoid backup of an infected system which then attacks other backups on the drive. I could go on, but what's the point? So, even if you are super careful and even if you use cloud backup you can still get infected. There's no nit-pickin' super-duper-absolutely-guaranteed method. And, by the way, you forgot to mention that we should encrypt any and all data before uploading to the cloud/offsite. But, hey, let's not nit-pick here ....

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I guess it was inevitable

We're going off topic, and I didn't mean to. Albeit, anti-virus discussions always lead to backup discussions.

Your suggestions above, like booting into safe mode, add extra manual steps to the backup process. For the vast majority of users, they'll do that for about two months, before falling out of the habit. Even plugging and unplugging a series of USB drives is more than most will do for long. That makes them not viable as an ongoing solution.

And, as for Hforman's comment on what gets encrypted, if I were a malware writer, my target files would include the extensions used by the top several backup programs. I would specifically watch for USB drives plugged in or network shares showing up which include those files.

If Windows can see the backup location in Explorer then it's vulnerable to malware.

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Finding Out Those Extensions Can Be Tough

Thaey are NOT always .BAK files. I've seen .DAT files which is an extension that may be used by other elements of software. What the ransomware writers do, is to assume the enterprise targets have external backup (we used tape and also disk) so they hit companies that can't afford to be offline long enough to restore from backup. Note that the "deep pocket" targets are usually companies and not specifically home users. It's about the money.

The point being that the malware that encrypts files (i.e., ransomware) is usually more targetted. You can't have some kid on his home computer getting a message that he needs to come up with $20,000 (in bitcoin, no less) or his homework is toast. The reports are that specific industries are targeted,such as hospitals that have a small RTO (the amount of time the system can be down) and others that might have a low RPO (the amount of data that can be lost by recovering from backup). In other words, if the situation becomes "urgent", restoring from backup would be the secondary solution to just paying the ransom. In the case of businesses (usually servers) the backups are NOT on the same device but usually on something of the form \\backupmedia\backvols\.... and not mapped drives. I haven't, but did you ever hear of a home user being hit by ransomware?

Post was last edited on October 12, 2019 8:12 PM PDT

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I Don't Think We Are That Far Off-Topic

As long as we are talking about AV solutions, that is part of a topic usually referred to as "disaster recovery" that includes BOTH backup and anti-malware. The point being is that no AV solution is 100% especially against a zero-day malware release (I've been through at least one at work: NIMDA) and the difference in malware protection software is the ability of the software to recognize when another piece of software or app is misbehaving even without determining what the actual name of the virus is and to stop it. Going further is to maintain file signatures to determine what files that you can find out there (i.e., the Internet) have what reputation. So much out there is NOT signature based anymore. Even with all of the fancy (expensive) AV solutions, stuff can still get through and that is why backup and restore methods are an important part.

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Start'em Young To Instill Good Habits

"For the vast majority of users, they'll do that for about two months, before falling out of the habit.

Oh, ye of little faith! Many people brush their teeth out of habit, not because they actually enjoy it (and I said many, not all). The same is true for some other good habits. According to behavioral studies it takes between three and six weeks to form new habits that people stick to, so all we have to do is keep reminding users to backup, backup, backup for about six weeks and they're set for life - Lol.
And i don't trust any cloud backup with private, personal data. Before uploading to any such service the mantra must be encrypt, encrypt, encrypt.

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That has not been my experience

I've seen people lose stuff, and then get really gung ho about backing up. If there are any manual chores involved, they usually last less than a coupla months.

It's even worse when something changes in the backup routine, like the data outgrowing the backup device and needing an adjustment. The user usually never gets around to it.

It has to be completely automatic, or it doesn't get done.

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Backup Software

Fortunately, most ransomware only encrypts documents. If it encrypted ALL files, for example, you would not be able to boot up your computer in order to find out where to send them the money. Backups usually do NOT get encrypted by malware although it is always a good idea to remove them. Most backup software is NOT a copy of the files but the backup files contain the data and, many offer encryption within the backup software. One issue that is there is that if you only keep a "current" copy of a file in backup, that file could have been damaged (by ANY means) long before the last backup is made so keeping a timeline of several backups could be very important.

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or backup to

or backup to write once media. keep these backup indefinitely. it takes a lot of space. but your most secure stuff need to be done this way.

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They're all good.......

Hallelujah!! Spot on as the Brit's luv to say!! I run Norton Security Suite for 2 reasons! #1 it's free from Comcast and I'm a cheap SOB!
#2 I've used it for years, probably at least 10 plus years and seeing the reviews it's always in the top 10. It's an all in one system antivirus and fire wall!
I don't put all my eggs in one basket!! I also run Malwarebytes, at first the free version and now the paid version. Someone said they "MAY"(?) conflict with each other but I've never noticed any lag time when running them simultaneously! Between the 2, if anything sneaks in I'd be surprised.
Gaucherre has nailed it probably better than some of the other post's! Hat's off to you!!
Some of the free ones are very good "BUT" the scans and updates, etc. MUST be done manually! A lot of people including my wife call me paranoid but I've been on some less than prestigious sites and knock on wood nothing to report, in fact one or the other will pop up and say "pack your bags we're out of here" play on words, ergo suspicious site detected LEAVE ASAP !!
Believe it or not my wife has had more trouble on some of the gaming sites! Go figure!
For me it's Norton & Malwarebytes forever!! Again hat's off to gaucherre! Say what you want but his post is next to gospel!!
Almost forgot Windows 10 (1903 build 18362), Firefox Quantum, HP 750-537cb and with the SSD , greased lightning plays catch up!!
I've got BOTH Norton & Malwarebytes setup to do a 100% scan weekly. They both scan the directories for bad nasty bugs! Whatever protection one uses "MAKE SURE YOUR DIRECTORIES AND REGISTRY GETS THE ONCE OVER" also because like someone else posted the bugs lay in wait in them!
Am I paranoid?? Maybe, but I'd rather be paranoid than bitten!!

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Differences Betwenn Home and Enterprise

There are many factors one uses when deciding on a home system protection software including, what can you afford? However, in an enterprise situation, there are usually other factors such as: if there is a new piece of malware, will the company send representatives on-site to help you. That is, a support contract.

Other than that, the software is NOT all the same. In a business sense, you have to "FORCE" the AV product to all user computers and to servers in the environment. Usually, a central support function takes care of that. Usually, you cannot make exceptions. Everyone gets the software and updates. HOW the software controls that and pushes out updates without disrupting everyone is a subject for discussion. Reviews by teams in different departments usually point the way. One BIG factor: volume licensing. We had over 100,000 endpoints. What we did was break it down by department. Each department that had it's own IT staff (depending on department size), had a choice of McAfee (NAI) or Symantec (not NORTON). Microsoft was not allowed for financial reasons plus we used the Gartner Magic Quadrant to make our decisions.

One thing you might want to look at for the "home front", is this. What is the difference between the paid version of the A/V solution vs. the "free" version?

Also, in deciding, remember that malware is NOT signature-based anymore. You can't just load frequent signatures and hope that this will save you. Heuristic and solutions based on reputation are important. There are too many "zero day" problems out there that your solution can afford to wait for a signature update. Systems that can at least warn you that you are using software that does not have a proven track-record help.

But, to answer the OP basic question, there are many differences in the brands of software as well as what is free vs. what you pay for (besides support, if you need it). But you'll have to look at reviews and comparisons and sites that actually test the different versions of each to find out. And, as I always mention, don't just assume that, because nothing "special" is happening with your computer that you don't have malware. Today's malware is designed to steal information (such as sites and passwords) without hinting to the computer user that something is going on.

As Robert said, always be prepared with a great backup solution and make sure you keep a few generations of backup over time.

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So far excellant info/sugestions/advice

So just input on how/what I have.
Win 10 using Defender and Malwarebytes paid version, both running in background. In spite of mentioned earlier they run seamless together and don't slow the computer down, but I run 16GB ram and don't run memory hogging programs.
I also use Firefox browser and between the three if a site is known for malware it will be blocked. Also have had malware/virus attached to something and either Malwarebytes or Defender catch it.
But as RProfit and Drake have said they cannot catch it all all the time. Be aware and wary.

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The Problem With Multiple Realtime Protection

The problems happen when one AV program is scanning and picks up signatures inside the other realtime protection program. It's like Norton scans the files of Malwarebytes and finds bad things in there. That doesn't always happen but gets real confusing when it does. You should check inside the MS product settings because, those usually detect that you have another program and tell you that the functions are being used by the other program. For example, after I installed Norton, the MS software shows that Norton has taken over the role. You don't get "additional" coverage by having more than one program and may get less if the programs are assuming that the other program is taking care of the function. On-demand scanners are usually OK as long as one product doesn't disable the other product.

Post was last edited on October 12, 2019 7:48 PM PDT

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The Best AV

Yes, generally speaking, any of the well-known anti-malware applications can "do the job" adequately as long as they do not encounter what we in systems administration and user support used to refer to as, alternately, a BDU error or a PEBCAK error. These translate to "Brain-Dead User" and "Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard."

No antivirus can protect you from clicking on executables in unsolicited emails if you insist on overriding its warnings. Even the best cannot help you if you click on ads in X-Rated or religious websites, or use a link in an email to log into your bank's website, or try to take advantage of some emailed offer of money for nothing, or give the guy with the thick Asian accent who just called you from "Windows Support" to tell you that your computer is infected the access to your machine that he requests.

It is wise, indeed it is essential, to obtain and install a competent AV program on all of your computers (including smartphones). Many these are free. But at the end of the day, taking care and thinking about what you do online is the most important anti-virus measure you can take.

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I think McAfee is more of a virus than anti-virus. Hate it, especially when it's installed on every PC you buy.

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a multi-layered defense is the key

I read "be smart" but, sometimes even being smart doesn't do the trick. Yes, YOU are the first layer of defense but it's not like you can use your crystal ball when you are on a site you trust and you click on a bad link somehow planted by a hacker, or you get an email from a "friend" when it is really from someone who hacked your friends account.

My browser is my first line of defense. It has a constantly updated blast list of sites with known problems.

Next, my firewall uses cloud intelligence on reported bad sites, does up to layer 7 deep packet scans, as well as watching for unique traffic such as outbound traffic generated by an unapproved app.

Then, my backup software has ransomware protection built in that blocks any changes to system files or backup files.

Lastly, I maintain 3 separate backups, one of which is on a Linus system so something or someone would have to hack my Windows PC AND my Linux system before it could do any damage.

And when you think about it, a lot of this should be done anyway just in case you have a catastrophic hardware failure. I lost 3 hard drives at the same time when I had a drive controller failure last year. Thank God for my Linux backups!

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Depends on what job you want it to do

I've found that antivirus protects me according to what strategy it uses. Once a virus gets onto my computer the odds are slim an antivirus will remove it, though it might identify it.

By far the most effective antivirus software stops viruses from downloading, AND warns you away from infected web sites. Then viruses don't seem to reach my computer.

Malwarebytes does this. Most don't.

And NONE of them stop viruses from downloading or prevent visiting infected web sites, for Linux - and don't even try to tell me Linux doesn't need an antivirus. Get over that!

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best antivirus

i remember norton my friend put o n my computer - and then he changed to avast - and 3 years ago he gave me bitedefender which he said was the best as both norton and avast could be hacked - you can get bitedefender free or buy it for more than one computer - usually ebay has good prices or u can go to bitedefender website because sometimes its on sale - windows defender for windows10 is a real joke - they even had problems with it recently so dont trust it

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I used and recommended Avast for years. But, they got way too obnoxious with their nags to upgrade, and just other nags, always shoving themselves in my face. Even the paid version popped up a lot. I got tired of them.

I tried a couple of others and have settled on Sophos. I consider it a name brand, and it stays out of the way. I upgraded to their paid version, to support them.

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Adjusting notifications

Hi, MightyDrakeC:

While we'd love to have you come back to us in the future, we understand your concerns about our notifications and just wanted to reach out and let you know we do offer a way to adjust them. In the current version of our software, all of our customers have the option of adding or removing components and trials of our various features by clicking Menu>Settings>General>Troubleshooting>Add/Remove Components and either checking or unchecking the items that may or may not work for your specific needs. Additionally, our upgraded customers have the option of further adjusting our notifications for our other great features and products by clicking Menu>Settings>General>Personal Privacy and unchecking the corresponding boxes.

Thanks for being a loyal customer over the years.

-Avast Team

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Notifications are scattered

Yeah, I've been through this with one of your team on a previous thread.

The notifications can be turned off. The problem is, those switches are scattered across at least a half dozen different areas of the program. Some are almost Easter Eggs to get to. And, few, if any, of the popups include a way to switch it off right there, nor a direct link to the page holding the switch. And, some of those switches have moved across various versions, making the Google search to find them even more frustrating.

It became too much work to re-discover how to turn those off each time I installed Avast on a new machine. For me, anyway.

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To the Avast Team

Today's example: I was at my mom's checking on some things on her computer when I realized that the browser I was looking at was Avast, not Chrome. I never set her up on that. She wouldn't know how. I would call that a Browser Hijack. Yes, you're a reputable company and not stealing anything. But, taking over a user's browser is not good Netizen behavior.

What I also noticed is that it's popping up one of the scary-looking screens that says, "Your IP Address is Visible" with a Resolve button. Which, of course, takes me to an upgrade screen. That's just underhanded.

I didn't spot this until late, so I'm not going to do it tonight. But, next time I'm over there, I'm going to switch her to Sophos.

Drake Christensen

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Safe computing

First and foremost, you should never be logged onto your computer as admin when surfing. Set up an admin password and then setup another standard account for you to use for your computing. That prevents program from installing without your admin password. It is a little troublesome when you need tech support as you need to be logged in as admin for them to take control of your PC, but well worth the effort required. That should be your first step in defense, then a good firewall and Antivirus and then remember to be careful what you download and what sites you visit. Remember, if it sounds to good it is.

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Kaspersky is working for me.

Wow! Many great thoughts in these replies! I'm just an old 70-somethng duffer who usually reads a lot but doesn't reply much. But this topic AND its replies are really relevant in "today's open cyber environment!" So I thought I would reply or comment. I was not an IT professional or programmer during my working days … but techie enough to build my own SOHO computers without too many problems.
I totally agree with the comments by other posters made regarding smart, safe computing basic practices, backups, redundancies etc. Without getting into all the details, my current system (desktop) runs a combination of multiple SSDs, a couple of smaller fast HDDs and multiple 1 and 2TB drives. Backups currently go to a 4TB Buffalo NAS system with WD External Drives for redundancy. Also dabbled for quite a while with various cloud backup options as well - imho -- lots of pluses and minuses …. I'm still working on whether I want all "my stuff - Out There!" Regarding BackUp - As one wise geek said "if it can be reached, it can be breached." (Oh yeah, I did buy a couple devices too ... writing this on an old Surface Pro4.)
So back to the original topic. Antivirus. Same philosophy, I'm old so I have used pretty much everything that's "out there". Before retirement, our corporate "workstations" had a variety of AV solutions usually based on a corporate version of Norton or MacAfee which trickled out through the mainframe so it was pretty numb to any of us worker bees. "Something crashes? Call IT!"
But of course there was name recognition … So when I first decided to put AV on my home system (a long, long time ago) it was Norton. Huge mistake! Literally cut performance to a crawl! It was literally unusable. (I did like Norton's "Ghost" though!).... So I learned from Norton to start researching the various AV options. First off, I've used Malwarebytes "forever" and fast forward a few decades … here's a list of AV/Security software I have used: (most paid, some free, some both) my cable/Internet provider has BitDefender (ok), Trend MIcro(ok), MacAfee(yes/no), Norton (a later better version - no - still didn't like it), Avira(no), AVG(ok-good), Windows Defender (tried since I run MS Windows OSs)(no), Avast (both free and paid - liked it a lot - used it for years.), G-Data (A German AV - went to it after Avast got a little 'bloated.' - Big change - literally no system drag, runs in background - bought for a couple years - I liked the change at the time but it was not that user friendly. Then "Ransomware" reared its ugly head and I decided to get "deeper" involved in Cyber Security, AV, Malware etc. in an attempt to better protect my system from attack. For me that was moving to Kaspersky a couple years ago. I won't try here to compare Kaspersky to other existing "security ware." IMHO It leaves everything I've used (above) in the dust! Kaspersky is a worldwide cyber/security company headquartered in Moscow (btw … forget any 'Russia collusion crap" from the media! What BS!) Kaspersky - A Brilliant Man, brilliant software (please don't say 'app!') and a brilliant company! As another poster said "research it on your own."

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