For years it has been common sense to protect your Windows machine with a third-party antivirus program like Kaspersky, Norton or Avast or one of the many other offerings out there.
Avast for instance is a free program and recently we found out why. It seems they have been selling users browsing data to large companies like Google and Pepsi (and many others). Avast says that users have to opt in and that the data is anonymised but it’s unlikely that the approximately 100 million users that have opted in have a clear idea of what is being collected and how it is used. The old adage has proven true again: If it’s free, you are the product.
Presumably paid for antivirus software like Kaspersky and McAfee does not track your browsing history and resell it but who knows?
So, the question is; given that Windows Defender is built into Windows 10 is it sufficient by itself to protect you from the baddies?
The answer is: Almost.
Defender is fast, effective and typically is not as heavy a drain on system resources as third-party software. As it’s already built into Windows 10 there is nothing extra to pay. Further, independent testing has shown it to be in the top tier of antivirus programs – a big step up from earlier versions.
Windows does pull telemetry data from your activity but unlike its competitors, Windows Defender does not try to get you to upgrade to a paid program, ask for an annual renewal fee or use browser extensions that share your browsing data with third parties.
As it comes with Windows 10, Defender is tightly integrated into the operating system and effectively free. Third party software has to integrate itself into your system which can cause a whole set of different vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
Of course, you still need to exercise common sense and be wary of what you download and what email attachments you open but Windows Defender will do an excellent job and generally make a third-party antivirus program unnecessary.
Windows Defender includes really excellent parental controls. You can create separate accounts for all family members and control them from your admin account. You can set different parameters and limits for different accounts. For example, you can block children from undesired content by setting limitations in the Edge browser and blocking access to alternative browsers (that Defender does not control).
Keeping your data safe goes beyond using antivirus/anti-malware software. The only defence against a well-executed phishing attack is the processor between your ears. Think before you click or reply!
Databases that contain your details are regularly breached. To protect from that you should use unique passwords, two factor authentication or a physical security key. Be very wary and reluctant to offer up any kind of personally identifiable data online.
In summary, Windows Defender is great for the traditional viruses that have plagued the internet for years but online criminals have moved on from these sorts of attacks to focus on ransomware, zero-day attacks and other malware that traditional antivirus aren’t designed to handle. Defender is increasingly addressing these areas but for now it’s also a good idea to pair it with a malware scanner such as Malwarebytes that can pick up other nasties when they try to invade. Malwarebytes has a free as well as paid version. The main difference is that the paid version has active real-time monitoring of threats whereas the free version requires you to periodically run it manually (which of course is easy to forget).
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