How to tell if an app is safe to download

It’s getting increasingly difficult — and dangerous — to navigate the online world.

With threats ranging from malicious programs that steal your identity to hidden codes that, when executed, hold your data for ransom, the average computer user faces more hazards than ever before.

Making matters worse is the idea that these threats can originate from nearly any site and, in some cases, secretly embed themselves into legitimate software.

There are many steps you can take to safeguard your system, your identity, and your digital assets. There are also many reputable utilities you can rely on to identify potential threats and remove them from your PC as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

Although your PC will never be completely impervious to the effects of viruses and malicious software, a little bit of diligence, planning, and preparation can go a long way in keeping your system as safe as possible.

The best antivirus programs

Perhaps your first line of defense against today’s cyberthreats, modern antivirus programs are quite effective at mitigating much of the risk. Some of the most popular options include:

But good software doesn’t necessarily have to cost a fortune. There are plenty of free antivirus options available on the consumer market, including Avast Free Antivirus, Adaware, Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition and many more.

Many of these solutions include built-in advertisements, which can be annoying, but it’s the trade-off you make when relying on free software.

How to choose anti-malware software

While maintaining an updated antivirus utility is critical when trying to avoid harmful apps and software downloads, viruses aren’t the only threat posed by apps.

Malicious software, often referred to as malware, has the potential to be just as harmful as — if not worse than —modern computer viruses.

Although malware is often lumped into the same category as a traditional virus, key differences in the software’s coding and architecture can make these files undetectable by antivirus software. Because of this, malware requires a different approach altogether.

Most anti-malware programs are, in many ways, the same as their antivirus counterparts. Some even have integrated antivirus functionality.

Real-time scanning prevents you from downloading malware or infected software in the first place, while periodic and user-initiated scans keep your drive clear of any dormant or unidentified hazards.

Some of the most useful programs include MalwareBytes Anti-Malware and Spybot Search & Destroy. While both of these are available for free, additional features are unlockable by purchasing the appropriate upgrades.

Safety features of modern web browsers

You can even fight online threats with your web browser. The most popular browsers all offer some form of add-on integration, and many antivirus and malware developers make add-ons to complement their products.

Although they’re often limited in functionality, these add-ons can make your online life far less stressful.

Another utility, VirusTotal, is a free online tool that lets you scan files or hyperlinks before you even download them onto your computer.

Given the increasing sophistication of online threats, viruses, and malware, next-gen solutions like this ensure you’re not wasting the bandwidth on such files.

Take a multifaceted approach to online security

Remember, it’s not enough to use an antivirus program on its own. The uniqueness and variety seen in today’s viruses and malicious programs require different approaches, strategies and software solutions, and there’s no end in sight.

As hackers and identity thieves continue to expand their reach with new and more creative bugs, consumers will be forced to tighten their digital borders even further and enhance security to all-new levels.

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