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Free antivirus software is a great choice if you only need basic protection. However they don’t offer the same level of protection that paid-for solutions. The most reliable free AV software usually has the highest malware detection rates and are approved by independent labs such as AV-TEST or AV Comparatives, but they don’t have the extra features that are usually included in premium solutions. These extras, like security measures for network threats and usage profiles, a VPN, password managers, and parental controls are crucial to complete security online.

In addition, free antivirus applications might not be updated more frequently than paid solutions, which leaves a window of opportunity for spick-and-span malware to escape detection. The majority of free antivirus programs rely on signature detection. This is done by the comparison of malware samples with strings of characters that are linked to known attacks. This method works when attackers use the same patterns. However sophisticated hackers are using techniques which are distinctive enough to avoid detection.

Be aware of the terms and conditions of using a particular antivirus program. Most free software is licensed for personal use, and may not be suitable for business users. Some free programs contain technology that could be classified as adware and spyware. Downloading these should be done with caution. Paid solutions on the other hand are more likely to be supported by guarantees and warranties that specify what the user is entitled to in the event of a breach or infection.