BY DANIEL CÁCERES GARRIGA
I’ve gone half a year without a single antivirus program installed on my computer… and nothing has happened to me! Not even one virus. Not even a cyber-annoyance. Zip. Zero.
What’s my secret? It was as easy as realizing that nowadays there are great alternatives to traditional antiviruses, so if I was careful, I didn’t need to invest a single penny on an antivirus program.
You can also live without an antivirus, as long as you follow these tips.
Updates from your browser or Operating System
Many of the protections that five years ago were only found within antiviruses (such as anti-phishing tools) already come preinstalled on your Operating System and even your browser.
But none of these protections will be useful if your OS or browser are out of date. In fact, Google takes your security so seriously that it updates Chrome automatically, whether you like it or not. And the same with Windows.
Do these updates frustrate you because the installation process wastes your time or because you don’t trust the flagged changes? Keep in mind that most current hacks happen because of security breaches that companies patch up with updates… which many users postpone installing until it’s too late. They wouldn’t have been hacked if their software had been up to date.
Tips for browsing worry-free
Everybody’s favorite program these days is their browser. Keeping it updated will ensure you’re protected, of course, but it’s not too much to add a few additional security layers.
For starters, don’t install more extensions or plugins than you need. Many of these extensions either don’t update as much as they should (which opens the door to hackers) or are malicious themselves.
Browse often using public Wi-Fi? Travel often? Maybe it’s worth investing the money you were going to spend on an antivirus to get powerful VPN software that protects your data.
Trust this preinstalled “antivirus”
If you’ve got Windows 10, it means Windows Defender comes preinstalled, a great antivirus program that runs if you haven’t installed any other protection. In fact, Windows 10 not only comes with this program but also includes filters that notify you about suspicious webpages, not to mention your OS will use the cloud to protect you from multiple threats (basically Microsoft has created a giant database through the interconnection of all Win 10 computers).
Need an extra firewall?
Just like the protections that come with a standard Operating System, most routers come with a firewall that goes above and beyond its function. Honestly, I would only recommend adding another firewall if you feel uneasy about it. The free ZoneAlarm program is a good option.
The antivirus you don’t even need to install
Do you know about VirusTotal? It’s a service via web where you can upload a suspicious file that it inspects using its engine and data obtained thanks to previous requests from other users.
Oh, and another extra trick. If you use Chrome, I recommend Web of Trust, a free extension (also available on Google Play) that notifies you if the page that you’re about to click on is secure or not.
Going illegal or dirty has a price
Let’s be honest: 99.99% of current problems with antiviruses come from negligent browsing. You can have the best antivirus on the market, an updated Operating System and the greatest password manager you could ever want, but if you frequent pages with illegal downloads or suspicious pages for 18-and-ups (hint: they’re usually pages with free videos), your computer will become infected, no doubt.
Negligent browsing is no accident. One doesn’t go on these pages absent-mindedly. In this case, you and only you are guilty of the infection. No hacker has gotten into your computer, but rather you’ve jumped straight into the lion’s den.
If you browse carefully, there’s a 0.1% chance of becoming a victim of a virus.
Keep teens under control
If you have teenagers at home that use your computer, it’s possible they’re the ones browsing pages of ill repute. In this case, maybe it’s worth restricting access to certain programs or pages for younger users, or even resorting directly to a parental control program. Or you could even chat with them.
How to spot fraudulent email
No antivirus or any of the alternatives listed here will 100% protect you from malicious email. In this case, you should resort to common sense: distrust all unexpected email regardless of what the subject line promises you. Alarm bells should go off if you see spelling mistakes or strange syntax…
And what about Macs?
Do you need to install an antivirus for your macOS? The answer is the same as Windows: no, if you use common sense.
While it’s true that there are more and more attempts to hack Macs, given the increasing number of users, Apple relies on its closed App Store. If you don’t install unauthorized apps from strange sites, it’s only recommended to install an antivirus if not having one prevents you from sleeping at night.
And cell phones?
If you haven’t skipped any tips until now, this one is the same old story: if you keep your Operating System updated and only install apps through the official virtual stores, the risk is almost zero. Just like the desktop world, most viral infections come from security breaches that are rectified by updating your cell phone or from suspicious apps found on even more suspicious pages.
Listen up about this “almost zero.” There’s nothing certain in life. In March, 2017, the cyber-security company Check Point discovered malware preinstalled on Android cell phones. In other words, the virus came from the manufacturer, so to speak. But, in this case, how can you protect yourself from something that shouldn’t even happen?
If you’ve installed an antivirus for your cell phone, you’ll see that these security apps prioritize anti-theft or data protection features and set aside the most basic feature of eliminating viruses. That’s because in the cell phone world, there’s a greater chance of stealing your data. Be careful with your cell phone password. For example: choose a long password or unlocking pattern, reduce unlocking time as much as possible, disconnect Siri on the lock screen if you have an iPhone and disable notifications for content that could reveal private info without even having to unlock your cell phone.
Just like a desktop, if you often use public Wi-Fi networks, it may be easier to install a VPN instead of an antivirus.