We are not yet thinking about 2014, but the antivirus community certainly is.  We can expect a lot of new product introductions in the antivirus sector as they attempt to get on your holiday shopping list with newer products.

You’ll find that the competition to get your AV dollar is fierce.  One particular website comparison found at http://www.av-comparatives.org/dynamic-tests/ , allows you to download a PDF of the comparison results.  The important thing is that AV-Comparitives.org actually tracks how well each antivirus actually deals with real world threats over a 6 month period.  Even better, it’s presented in a format that gives direct comparisons between competing products.

Of course, cost is always an issue, particularly if you have to protect a small fleet of pc’s, laptops, and tablets.  Ad-Aware, AVG, and Microsoft all provide free antivirus programs, and the range of pricing for paid products seems to be between $20 and $60 at this time.  Some companies may provide special pricing for multiple license users, and for a typical household this might be important to your cost estimate.  It would be smart to choose a short list of highly rated products, and then compare the pricing.

All antivirus products considered for your use should have automatic capability for updating the virus definitions.  You should ensure all your pc’s are operating in a mode where both antivirus and operating system updates are automatic.  There are many thousands of new viruses and security exploits uncovered each year, and an absolutely sure method to be vulnerable is to have a system operating with old virus definitions and none of the latest security patches.  You should pay special attention to systems that are used infrequently and left powered off, since updating of AV definitions and system patches takes some time, and there is a tendency to “power it up, open a browser, and view a website.”  During that period of updating, that PC might be an easy target for a virus, malware, or hacking exploit.

Some of the antivirus products are rated highly at cleaning up malware that has already been installed on the machine.  Those products are worth thinking about because threat removal is not a simple task with some malware or viruses, and the odds are pretty high this will happen to you at some point.  I will mention an “initially free” product which has worked extremely well for me over several years, Hitman Pro from a company named Surfright.  Hitman Pro is not intended to be a primary antivirus, but is a very good cloud based secondary scanner that has proven extremely proficient at removing threats without my intervention (this is a real blessing if you’re the go-to guy for a bunch of machines).  It’s intended to be run on a scheduled basis, and at any time that you think something bad has happened.  So it doesn’t do real-time scanning, and you should always have a primary antivirus running.  But, the free version of Hitman Pro will do a complete, fast, and thorough pc scan, and alert you to what it found.  And it can then be purchased to use its malware removal skills if needed.

It pays to “pay attention” to your antivirus tools, and to see that they are current and effective.  It is important for proper pc operation, and to keep your personal information personal.

‘Getting the Most Out of Your Antivirus’ was written by Rex Davis.  Rex is the Director of Operations at the Identity Theft Resource Center.