/ Technology

Why antivirus matters – for you and others

Like a vaccine, security software keeps you safe and helps protect the community. Do you make sure you always have it installed?

Mac users can be famously prickly and defensive about the merits of their computers, and while that’s a bit of cliché, the person I spoke to did nothing to dispel that impression.

Years ago Macs were safe from malware – the user base was small and, the thinking went, there were much richer pickings on the then much less secure Windows platform.

Malware and other threats

But Windows has got increasingly secure, especially with Windows 11. Meanwhile there now most definitely is malware and threats for Macs – despite measures such as the ‘walled-garden’ Apple App Store, where software is rigorously vetted before being allowed on it.

Mobile devices are also threatened. Apple recently pushed out an emergency update to patch a critical
vulnerability in iPhones and iPads that had been used to compromise the phones of dissidents, journalists and human rights activists.

Android, like Windows, has got safer over the years. So long as you keep your phone/tablet up to date and only install apps from the Google Play Store, there’s only a small chance you’ll run into trouble on an Android device. But there certainly is malware for Android, and there’s no guarantee you won’t accidentally pick up an infection.

Covid comparisons

The conversation with the Mac user reminded me of often fraught discussions about vaccinations for Covid and other diseases.

We have vaccinations not only to protect ourselves, but also to protect the community. It’s the same with antivirus. It protects your device (Mac, PC, iPad, Android phones and tablets) and helps keep the community safer from malware.

If all devices have antimalware, it cuts the amount of malware circulating and the software also gathers telemetry – data about a device’s configuration and the threats it encounters. That data feeds back into making antivirus better.

Do you have antivirus software installed on your PC, Mac, tablet or other devices? If not, what’s putting you off? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

Generally, I don’t use any third party software’s for virus protection. Windows has generally been pretty secure and I’ve found that software’s like your AVG and Mc Afee really slow a pc down and are a pain to uninstall. Recent experience is my dads laptop that I had to clean up which took such a long time having all these anti virus software on it.

I insist on having top of the range third party security, and nothing less, and whatever you use it must also have anti key logger software included, as with a key logger it doesn’t matter how much you try and change a password it will be logged every time you enter it so you must prevent it before it gets in there. And you could argue that having such top security is like having too many locks on your house doors. Well I have several locks on my doors including more than one police and insurance approved lock on both my external doors which are very thoroughly well fitted, as are the doors and I don’t have much problem with such security, and I like to keep my PC the same. And you should have thoroughly STRONG passwords on just about everything, not only on your various online accounts but also on your email account(s), your security program, your ISP account, and your PC or laptop or tablet or phone or whatever. And of course NEVER store any passwords anywhere online or anywhere on your devices, and never use any of the “remember me” or “stay logged in” buttons, always keep them unticked. And that’s just for starters… And does your windows security include anti-key logging? It’s not much use if it doesn’t.

Kevin says:
22 October 2021

Many IT security specialists would advise using a password manager in order to maintain different and effective passwords for everything. The other vital component of online security is 2 (or multi) factor authentication (2FA) – but avoid SMS if possible, many online services support Google’s Authenticator or equivalent Microsoft/Apple app so that’s a good basic [free] choice. If your online service (email, shopping etc) offers 2FA , you should enable it, because if a hacker enables it, you may have great difficulty recovering access to your account.

When creating passwords, length is more important than complexity, so pass phrases (of at least 18 characters) are a more secure user friendly option than shorter more complex passwords.

I’m not convinced of the value of third party security software. Solarwinds was a well respected and widely used enterprise monitoring software suite; it was hacked and the hackers were able to introduce an exploit into their software patch releases. It resulted in thousands of their government and enterprise customer’s networks being hacked worldwide.

Kate wrote: “Mac users can be famously prickly and defensive about the merits of their computers, and while that’s a bit of cliché, the person I spoke to did nothing to dispel that impression.” In my experience they are more likely to be apathetic about the need for protection. Rather them than me.

This Mac user has been using anti-malware software for 30 years, at which time I was running ‘Disinfectant’ and ‘Gatekeeper’. Thankfully I have never had a problem that was not dealt with automatically by having up to date protection on any home machine. At work my it did not deal with the Melissa ‘worm’ that I picked up from students’ floppy disks but all that was necessary was to delete a Microsoft Word template.

I can relate to anti-malware software slowing down computers, as mentioned by Chirag. The Mac version of IBM Rapport provided by banks made my computer run very slowly, so I relied on the existing antivirus software.

“Apple recently pushed out an emergency update to patch a critical vulnerability in iPhones and iPads that had been used to compromise the phones of dissidents, journalists and human rights activists.”

Yes it did and I updated my phone promptly. With routine software updates, I usually wait a week in case a problem is discovered.

There has always been a risk of ‘zero day’ malware, where computer users are affected before malware protection is available for a problem that anti-malware software cannot cope with. It’s one reason why backups are so important if you have valuable data.

Andy says:
22 October 2021

Something that I have never seen anyone comment on is the Internet of Things (IoT) and if they need anti-virus software, eg, Google TV, why is this? Since they like Android for Mac computers/phones, both of which are forks of Linux need anti-virus software to be safe why don’t the large screen computers we pepper our homes with need it?

I think this would make a good article for the general Which? magazine.

[Moderator: this comment has been deleted as it did not adhere to the Community Guidelines. We may remove comments which are off-topic or posted to intentionally mislead or provoke others.]

I regard it as offensive to draw parallels with the twin towers and other attacks on 9/11. The deaths then were largely due to high numbers of people concentrated into specific places like buildings and aeroplanes or in the emergency services which responded. The deaths due to coronavirus vaccinations and no other causes have been relatively few and very widespread. Huge numbers of lives have been saved by vaccination. That, due to the vagaries of immune systems, vaccination was sometimes unsuccessful is a tragedy but at this stage in medical science not surprising.

From Reuters:

“A social media post has incorrectly claimed that more people have died from COVID-19 vaccine than from the disease itself.

The post contains text superimposed over a photograph of British health minister Matt Hancock being vaccinated, which reads: “Data shows more people have died because of the Covid vaccines in 6 months than people who have died of COVID-19 in 15 months”.

In the comments section, the user states that the source of the data comes from the World Health Organization (WHO).

While it is not exactly clear what data the user is referring to, a spokesperson for the WHO told Reuters in an email that the claim is not true.

In the UK, government data shows that there has been than 127,000 deaths within 28 days of positive COVID-19 test (here).

Meanwhile, more than 42 million people in the UK have now received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine (here).

Data from the UK’s Yellow Card scheme (yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/), a website for citizens to report possible adverse reactions to vaccines (ADR), is compiled into a weekly report published by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

It includes reports of possible ADRs in which a patient has later died. 

The latest Yellow Card data up to June 9 shows that there have been 1,332 deaths reported after a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Phil says:
23 October 2021

The problem with the UK Yellow Card and US VAERS schemes is that they are self reporting and unverified. They record events that occurred AFTER vaccination but don’t constitute proof or evidence that any reported event was caused BY the vaccine. Both schemes include a disclaimer to this effect. As the vaccination programme was rolled out starting with the infirm and the elderly it was to be expected that some would die a short time afterwards.

However even if we accept that 1,332 were killed by the vaccine from 96 million doses that’s a death rate of 14 per million which is about a 1,000 times less than the death rate from Coronavirus itself. Nothing is 100% safe, it’s all a matter of judging risk and I reckon there’s a greater risk of being killed in a car crash on the way to the clinic than of dying from the vaccine; even if the above assumption is correct (which it isn’t).

Colin Powell was 84, had Parkinson’s and blood cancer. Covid or not he probably didn’t have long.

Simon MacPhisto says:
28 October 2021

Try applying that methodology to the covid death rate then watch the IFR fall through the floor.

You can’t have it both ways.

Bob Morgen says:
23 October 2021

I wonder why some believe that 3rd party anti-virus software will be superior to the updates and protections offered directly from Apple. 3rd parties have nothing like the resources available inside Apple. And they are just as susceptible to attack as any software provider. They could become Trojan horses. I’m going on 35 years of Apple products and I have never had a serious malware problem.

Simon MacPhisto says:
28 October 2021

Kate Bevan’s article is condescending nonsense that contradicts itself and is clearly written by someone as technically literate as my 7 year old daughter. It even manages to slip in a virtue signalling and entirely unscientific bit of government propaganda regarding Covid vaccines.

What a shame Which? Has come to this.

Kate’s article was very sensible advice, certainly not “condescending” and the comparison with Covid-19 well made. Protecting others is just as important as protecting yourself.

“Mac users can be famously prickly and defensive about the merits of their computers, and while that’s a bit of cliché, the person I spoke to did nothing to dispel that impression.”

This would appear to be offensive to anyone in the Mac community, which makes up around 10% of the OS market share in the UK. It was not necessary for the author to make that statement in order to convey the importance of antivirus software for Mac users.

“The conversation with the Mac user reminded me of often fraught discussions about vaccinations for Covid and other diseases…”

The author is reporting that one Mac user may not use antivirus software because they believe that the protection offered by their platform is sufficient. The author then makes an analogy to Covid vaccine hesitancy. Any reasonable person may conclude from this that Mac users generally may be less concerned about viruses, virtual or real. However, no evidence has been presented for this (n=1). This is yet another unnecessary negative assertion about Mac users, and it was wrong to bring Covid into the piece.

Both statements should be retracted and an apology issued in Which?

I am an IT professional with experience on a wide range of platforms for over 30 years.

I cannot get excited about anyone getting worked up about what computer I use or which car I drive. Here is an old but still amusing spoof report about a new Apple laptop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BnLbv6QYcA Enjoy – it’s now 12 years old.

There is plenty of good anti-malware software available and multiple backups are a good idea too.

I have been a Mac user for a long time, well before the Apple was a cool company and way before the iPhone. Here is my opinion. I do not particularly agree or disagree with whether you need an antivirus for macOS.
You need antivirus if you don’t know what you doing with your computer, and you keep downloading and clicking unsafe links. I have never had the need and/or caught a malware/virus but I know people (Mac users) who had a different experience. They are usually newbies or inexperienced users. Only install software from Apple store and keep your devices updated.

Covid vaccination has protected a great many from serious illness and death. If you think otherwise then kindly post authenticated data to support your stance.

The danger of ill-informed factoids, such as posted on social media, is to persuade some impressionable people to avoid vaccination. Most of those in hospital with Covid are unvaccinated. That seems to say it all.

However, I doubt there is any point in continuing this debate. You are entitled to hold your point of view, but not to persuade others to do likewise unless you have proper evidence to support it. And I doubt you do.

@gmartin, @jon-stricklin-coutinho, George, Jon, my comment above does not bear any relation to Indigos but to a contribution that was removed. Would you delete it please?

I think the analogy between protection against computer viruses and Covid vaccinations is quite reasonable – both are designed not only to protect the user but also others they come into contact with.

I do not see anything in this introduction that should sensibly be taken as offensive. Kate Bevan seems well informed, experienced and expert in computing matters and I see no grounds for an apology. 🙂 But only my view.