Microsoft asserts that Windows 10 is “the most secure Windows ever.” Apple “designed macOS with advanced technologies that work together to constantly monitor, encrypt, update — and ultimately keep your Mac safer.” iPhones and iPads “stop malicious software before it can ever get a foothold.” Android security chief Adrian Ludwig recently stated “I don’t think 99 percent plus of users get a benefit from anti-virus apps.”
Are independent antivirus programs now superfluous anachronisms, unnecessary residuals of a sophisticated protection racket?
Or are viruses and malware still clear and present dangers produced by criminal masterminds requiring constant vigilance and multilayered protection? The answer to such musings, like most other complex problems, is “it depends.”
Responsible users can mitigate malware risks by using modern equipment, updating regularly, eschewing third party sources for software, visiting only trusted secure websites and refusing to open popup ads, suspicious attachments or shortened web links. Visits to Facebook, LinkedIn and seeking free software, books, movies and books are also risky web locations to be avoided. Regular, redundant backups provide a high probability of recovering from the occasional disaster.
Modern browsers now feature protective features that required supplemental security programs in the past, and modern operating systems do indeed have enhanced security features that prevent many problems. Apple, Android and Linux users may boast of years of computing experience without malware infestation, but there are malicious programs that have successfully penetrated each these devices – and more are on the way. Unfortunately, no protective scheme is ever 100 percent effective. A single misstep can be inconvenient – and expensive to remediate.
While operating systems have steadily improved security measures, the opposing side of the perpetual technology war continues to adapt and innovate as well. Favorite targets are “low hanging fruit” such as unprotected older systems and unsophisticated users. Windows PCs are still the most common systems to be assaulted – there are lots of them, and many owners are lax about protection. Despite significant improvements, the built in protection is somewhat less robust than other operating systems. Windows Defender, the antimalware program included with Windows 8.1 and 10, blocks about 90% of malware attacks according to independent testing laboratories. Unfortunately, that’s not an A minus grade; it’s a barely passing mark. A recent test series found at least a dozen more effective free programs, each blocking over 99% of malware samples.
Consider that more than 8 million new malware programs were identified in just the month of April, 2017 and more than 120 million were identified in all of 2016. Do you feel lucky today?