Data Doctors: Does Windows 11 need anti-virus software?

Q: With all of the new security features in Windows 11, should I still install some form of anti-virus software, and if so, which one?

A: Microsoft has definitely stepped up the security features in Windows 11 in response to some of the more prevalent threats that most users will encounter in today’s Internet-concentric world. I covered some of them in a previous column.

Windows Defender, which was once a very basic “better than nothing” security option, has improved, especially as it pertains to detecting malicious software, but not so much when it comes to detecting things like phishing websites.

If you only use Microsoft’s Edge browser and only care about apps that are available from the Microsoft Store, the S-Mode in Windows 11 locks things down to avoid third-party threats. But it’s not a realistic way to function for many users.

It’s Not About Viruses Anymore

The old ‘anti-virus’ label used for protection software is a bit outdated as most of today’s threats have little to do with an actual computer virus.

A computer virus is typically self-replicating and ‘infects’ another program that acts as the host of the malicious code.

Today’s biggest threats — such as ransomware and clever phishing websites — focus on social engineering techniques that trick a user into doing something that looks routine to ‘anti-virus’ software, which is why it’s just not enough for most users.

Full internet security

Third-party programs that focus on total Internet security based on today’s user behavior and the most common threats provide significantly better protection.

Since it’s so easy to create a malicious website that looks exactly like a legitimate ‘name brand’ website, tipping off the user that a website may be dangerous before they actually click on a link is pretty helpful.

Other useful tools include folder and file shields to protect your critical data against ransomware and browser extensions for privacy checking, parental controls and email/online scam detection.

Microsoft is a huge target

Another big reason not to rely solely on Microsoft for your online security is that Windows is still the dominant operating system used by more than 80% of the computers connected to the Internet.

This makes it one of the biggest targets for hackers because the payoff for successfully compromising Microsoft’s code can be financially lucrative. If your security software is tied into your operating system, it’s more vulnerable if the OS is compromised.

How we choose security software

Just about any of the big-name security software packages will provide superior protection in combination with the enhanced features in Windows 11, so any security suite you add will provide those extra layers.

Two of the factors that have always been important to us are the resources the software requires and if they continue to try to sell users additional programs.

A security package that noticeably impacts the performance of your computer isn’t great, which ties directly into the second complaint we have with so many security products.

Convincing users to pay for additional tools by bombarding them with scary pop-ups from the tool that was installed to protect them is bad form.

We currently install Trend Micro’s Security Suite because it provides solid protection with low resource utilization and doesn’t pester its users to buy other products.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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