These days antivirus is just a word for a tool that protects your data and your PC against viruses, Trojans, botnets, rootkits, rogue security software, ransomware, and all types of malicious software. Actual viruses are the least of your worries, since they lay low to avoid detection.
“But I only use my PC to surf the Web,” you may say. “I don’t keep any personal information on it. Who cares if a virus or some bad program goes along for the ride?” Well, it’s not as simple as that.
A Trojan horse gets onto your system by pretending to be useful, but once inside the walls, it releases a malicious payload. You say you don’t store personal data? How about your email address—that’s about as personal as it gets. A Trojan might try to capture your email address and password, or insert itself into financial transactions to drain your bank account. That’s bank robbery with no need for a mask or a gun.
If your computer gets co-opted into a botnet, the bot herder can make it do just about anything, including spewing spam, participating in a denial of service attack, or serving as a peer-to-peer command and control server. If your ISP detects GameOver Zeus traffic coming from your IP address, you might find yourself cut off from all Internet access
How would you like to turn on your PC and see a message demanding that you pay ransom to regain access? Ransomware comes in many varieties, none of them pleasant. Even if you pay up, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your data back. You might have to reformat and start over.
Here’s another unwelcome possibility. If the bad guys manage to infest your PC with malware that gathers passwords and personal information, they might well parlay that data into full-blown identity theft. You might not know a thing about it until you get the bill for a credit card account you never opened, or find that there’s a lien on your house.
Are you convinced? Want to install antivirus protection? Never fear; we’ve identified the best antivirus products. If your budget won’t stretch to purchasing antivirus protection, check out our rundown on the best free antivirus. One way or another, you can protect yourself and your data from viruses and other malware