The Best Computer Security and Antivirus Tools
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Malware is on the rise. And phishing attacks. How about ransomware, data theft, and data breaches? Yup — all on the rise. Not only are cybersecurity attacks and vulnerabilities on the rise, but their impact also costs more, takes longer to recover from, and can be extremely damaging.

With that bleak outlook in mind, it is high time for you to consider your system security. There are so many anti-this and anti-that programs out there it is difficult separating the security wheat from the cyber chaff.

If you’re confused about security apps, you need this guide. If you don’t know how to protect your computer, you need this guide. We’ll show you how to comprehensively secure your computer and a little more for good measure.

1. Things You Need

2. Antivirus

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2018 | Kaspersky Total Security | Webroot Antivirus Security | Avast Free Antivirus | Sophos Home

3. Antimalware

Malwarebytes | Zemana AntiMalware | HitmanPro.Alert

4. Firewall

Windows Firewall | ZoneAlarm | GlassWire

5. Antiransomware

Cybereason RansomFree | Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware BETA | Kaspersky Anti-Ransomware Tool

6. Browser Security

Scripts, Blockers, and Encryption | Password Managers

7. Backup Tools

Cobian Backup | BackBlaze | Google Backup and Sync

8. Disk Encryption Tools

BitLocker | VeraCrypt | Jetico BestCrypt

9. The Best of the Rest

General Security | Ransomware Tools | DNS Alternatives | Secure Browsers | Security Courses for Beginners

10. Security Tool Roundup

1. Things You Need

What do you actually need to protect a modern computer? Well, those requirements vary by device and operating system. The vast majority of devices need at least an antivirus suite. Some require more, while others are largely secure with a single app (and some end-user knowledge).

Windows devices usually have multiple vulnerabilities and as such require antivirus, antimalware, and a good clean now and then. (Conversely, Linux devices have fewer vulnerabilities and attract fewer attackers — they still need an antivirus suite though!)

Here’s an important antivirus tip: you don’t need more than one antivirus suite. More than one suite causes issues and will expose you. Doubling down doesn’t double your protection. There are, however, numerous security apps of different varieties that do work well together.

2. Antivirus

Every Windows device should have an antivirus suite installed. Windows Defender Security Center is the default Windows 10 antivirus and, to be fair to Microsoft, it is more effective than ever. But it isn’t the best. It’ll do in a pinch, but otherwise, you need to check out one of the paid or free antivirus options below.

2.1 Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2018

Bitdefender consistently features at the top of “best of” antivirus lists. And for good reason. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus provides some of the most comprehensive protection without impacting system performance.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

The comprehensive protection keeps you safe from a huge range of vulnerabilities and attack vectors. Worried about online banking? Bitdefender grants extra encryption and security. Terrified of ransomware? Bitdefender features multi-layer ransomware protection. Furthermore, the Bitdefender UI is extremely user-friendly, more-so than the vast majority of its competitors.

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2018 retails at $59.99 for a single year’s license.

2.2 Kaspersky Total Security

Kaspersky Lab and its antivirus suite receive a huge amount of negative press, both in the U.S. and the U.K. In fact, in 2017, both governments issued warnings against using Kaspersky security products Is Kaspersky Software a Tool of the Russian Government? Is Kaspersky Software a Tool of the Russian Government? The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has banned the use of Kaspersky security software on federal computers. Understandably, people are worried - but is Kaspersky really in bed with the Russian government? Read More (and Russian developed security products in general, for that matter). We’re not so sure at MakeUseOf Is Kaspersky Still Reliable Antivirus Software? Is Kaspersky Still Reliable Antivirus Software? Security news is currently awash with a series of accusations against one of the world's leading antivirus developers, Kaspersky Lab. So, can you trust Kaspersky antivirus, or does it let Putin into your PC? Read More . The government advises its agencies, contractors, and employees against using it. But for home users, Kaspersky Anti-Virus is an excellent, well-priced suite.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

Like Bitdefender, Kaspersky antivirus products consistently feature at the top of “best of” lists. Kaspersky Total Security has an excellent malware and ransomware detection and removal rate. In fact, the Cryptomalware Protection system is one of the best consumer ransomware protection products (as part of a suite). Better still, Kaspersky registers less false positives than almost every other antivirus suite.

Kaspersky Total Security has a small performance trade-off, especially when compared to the almost negligible Bitdefender. That said, it is still negligible, and powerful machines will shrug it off. The Kaspersky UI is extremely easy to use, too.

Kaspersky Total Security retails at $99.99 for a single year’s license, with coverage for up to five devices.

2.3 Webroot Antivirus Security

From two comprehensive antivirus suites to one of the fastest, smallest antivirus programs What Security Software Should You Be Using in Windows 10? What Security Software Should You Be Using in Windows 10? Despite being bundled with its own security tool, Windows 10 needs additional software to keep your data secure and make your online experiences safe. But which security software should you choose for WIndows 10? Read More . Webroot Antivirus is the fastest scanner of all, consistently clocking in ahead of Trend Micro, Norton, Kaspersky, and the rest. Also, it is tiny. The Webroot installation directory takes up just 15MB, compared to an average of 500MB for its competitors.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

But size doesn’t matter. It is what you scan with it. And Webroot packs a serious amount of protection into its tiny package. Webroot Antivirus Security is the basic package, offering additional identity theft protection, webcam protection, banking and phishing protection, as well as excellent customer support.

If you are running an older machine but still want comprehensive protection, give Webroot a try. (Their other, bulked out security products are also excellent.)

Webroot Antivirus Security retails at $39.99 for a single year’s license for a single device.

2.4 Avast Free Antivirus

Unhappy about the thought of dropping north of 40 bucks to secure your devices? There are free options available Top Free Antivirus Apps Without Nag Screens and Bloatware Top Free Antivirus Apps Without Nag Screens and Bloatware Nagging antivirus apps are a huge pain. You don't have to put up with them, even for free. Here are the best antivirus programs that don't come with popups or bundled junk. Read More . Avast Free Antivirus is one of the best free options available. Avast Free Antivirus scores extremely well on detection and removal rates, and now features password management, a resource-saving gaming mode, and an updated heuristic program scanning tool.

Overall, Avast is simply one of the best free antivirus options out there, and you’d be somewhat foolish to ignore it. Its extremely easy to use, too.

2.5 Sophos Home

Our antivirus lineup terminates with Sophos Home. Like Avast, Sophos Home delivers a really excellent level of protection for a free antivirus suite The 10 Best Free Anti-Virus Programs The 10 Best Free Anti-Virus Programs You must know by now: you need antivirus protection. Macs, Windows and Linux PCs all need it. You really have no excuse. So grab one of these ten and start protecting your computer! Read More . Sophos Home offers one “killer” free feature: content control across devices. Install Sophos Home on your kid’s devices, and you can control their content from afar.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

Sophos Home offers additional browser protection against phishing, amongst other tools. One downside is integrated adverts, but they’re not so persistent to become a serious irritant.

2.6 Antivirus Roundup

There are so many threats out there. Luckily, our choice of great antivirus suites has never been better. The paid for options offer comprehensive security coverage against a truly massive range of attack vectors. And if you don’t want to shell out, the free options will give you serious peace of mind, especially if you were using nothing before.

The efficacy of antivirus divides the security industry. Some believe that keeping your system updated, removing old programs, and keeping your system free of multi-vulnerability targets like Java or Flash should suffice (along with regular scanning, and an antimalware suite).

At MakeUseOf, we advise having something installed. Because traversing the internet without any protection is, well, stupid. In that sense, if you don’t want to introduce a third-party program to your system, Windows Defender does an excellent job Make Windows Defender More Effective by Flipping One Setting Make Windows Defender More Effective by Flipping One Setting Windows Defender is a fine antivirus, but you can make it even stronger in the Creators Update. Here's how to up its detection levels. Read More , even more so if you combine it with one of the following antimalware products.

3. Anti-Malware

Anti-malware products are a product category of their own. There are, however, less dedicated anti-malware programs to choose from. Well, less to choose from that perform an excellent job, each and every time.

3.1 Malwarebytes

There is one program that you’ll find on almost every single antimalware list: Malwarebytes. Malwarebytes for Windows (formerly Malwarebytes Anti-Malware) is one of the grandfathers of modern system security. It is well respected, constantly updated, and has excellent detection and removal rates How to Easily Remove A Browser Redirect Virus How to Easily Remove A Browser Redirect Virus You ran a search in Google, but somehow, for some reason, you didn't get the result you wanted after clicking a link. You're got a redirect virus; here's how to get rid of it. Read More .

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

Malwarebytes comes in two flavors: Free or Premium. The major difference between the two is live system scanning. Malwarebytes Premium actively scans and protects your system, while the Free version is for remediation only. If you’re looking to build a robust defense barrier, Malwarebytes Premium is an excellent choice.

Malwarebytes Premium currently retails for $39.99 for a single year’s license.

3.2 Zemana AntiMalware

If you don’t like Malwarebytes, I would advise giving Zemana AntiMalware a try. Like Malwarebytes, Zemana comes in Free and Premium flavors. The Free version features a pretty fast system scan (system dependent, of course, but it seems to be consistently speedy), the choice of either Smart or Deep scanning, and will attack advanced threats like bootkits and rootkits.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

If you want full system real-time protection, you’ll need the Premium version. Zemana Premium features additional protection modules for ransomware, zero-day exploits, and more. If you find a particularly difficult to remove malware variant, Zemana engineers are on call 24/7 to offer advice. In fact, they have been known to remote connect to a compromised system to manually remove an infection.

Zemana Premium currently retails for $24.95 for a single year’s license.

3.3 HitmanPro.Alert

Our final antimalware program is HitmanPro. HitmanPro is a “secondary antivirus scanner.” That means it works alongside your existing antivirus to catch and remove anything that slips through the net. And HitmanPro is really good at doing just that Easily Remove Aggressive Malware With These 7 Tools Easily Remove Aggressive Malware With These 7 Tools Typical free anti-virus suites will only be able to get you so far when it comes to exposing and deleting malware. These seven utilities will weed out and remove malicious software for you. Read More . I use HitmanPro every time someone gives me their infected laptop. After scanning with an antivirus program, then an antimalware program, HitmanPro catches anything lurking in the dark corners of the system.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

It is powerful, has an extremely easy-to-use interface, and is lightweight. HitmanPro.Alert is the premium version. As well as offering real-time protection, ransomware protection, and banking protection, HitmanPro.Alert has a particularly good success rate regarding bootkits and rootkits when compared to its competitors. These represent some of the nastier infections in the current malware landscape and HitmanPro.Alert is one of the best preventative tools available.

HitmanPro.Alert current retails for $34.95 for a single year’s license.

3.4 Antimalware Roundup

Malware has become the coverall term for malicious computer activity. It hasn’t quite replaced virus in the common lexicon, but we use it interchangeably. These programs, however, are not antivirus suites. They are specific antimalware programs that search and destroy the ever-growing threat list. Did you know that more malware was created in the second half of 2017 than in all time the previous to it?

That’s why you need an antimalware program.

4. Firewall

Firewalls have become somewhat unfashionable of late. They don’t have the same cutting-edge, search and obliterate characteristics of antivirus and antimalware programs. They do, however, perform an incredibly important role in computer security. And it is usually one that you are not aware of — until your firewall fails, and you’re scrambling for a security solution.

4.1 Windows Firewall

You don’t really need anything but the integrated Windows Firewall Which Free Firewall For Windows Is Best For You? Which Free Firewall For Windows Is Best For You? We place emphasis on antivirus and malware removal, but don't ignore firewalls. Let's take a look at the best free Windows firewalls, comparing ease of setup, ease of use, and availability of features. Read More . A firewall essentially opens and closes ports. The Windows Firewall does exactly this, lets you create rules, control which ports are in use and, best of all, leaks very little information to the outside world.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

Windows security products took a bit of a bashing throughout the late 90s and 2000s. But the integrated Windows Firewall is consistent, uses very few resources, and is extremely easy to configure. Plus, there are numerous tutorials on configurations for almost any program. If you have a problem, there is a strong chance someone else has already encountered it, solved it, and posted their results on the internet.

4.2 ZoneAlarm

ZoneAlarm remains one of the best free firewall options for Windows users. There is also a premium ZoneAlarm version that features many more options than its free counterpart. The free version is sufficient for the majority of people, though. Unfortunately, in recent years, the free version has seen some useful features stripped back in favor of paid subscriptions.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

Nonetheless, as an entry point into firewalls, ZoneAlarm Free is still a great choice.

4.3 GlassWire

GlassWire is a cool firewall-cum-system monitoring tool. For a long time, internet and computer security was green text on black backgrounds and other poorly considered UIs. GlassWire didn’t change this, but the UI and overall resource display are delightful, making spotting and shutting down incoming issues a visual pleasure.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

GlassWire is a mixture of both worlds. You probably don’t interact with your regular firewall. That’s good — it means it is doing its job. But GlassWire gives you the opportunity to spot a sudden surge in system activity, identify what’s causing it, and close the process, port, or internet connection before it escalates.

4.4 Firewall Roundup

Do you need a third-party firewall? 7 Top Firewall Programs to Consider for Your Computer's Security 7 Top Firewall Programs to Consider for Your Computer's Security Read More Honestly, I don’t think you do. Windows Firewall is still an excellent choice. It is fully integrated with your operating system, updates automatically, notifies you of issues, and more. If you do want some additional functionality check out the other options, but be sure to properly configure them. You could create a large issue without realizing.

5. Anti-Ransomware

Along with antivirus and anti-malware programs, specialized anti-ransomware programs are increasing in popularity 12 Tools You Can Use to Help Beat Ransomware 12 Tools You Can Use to Help Beat Ransomware One of the biggest issues facing computer users is ransomware. And while a ransomware infection is notoriously difficult to fight, it isn't impossible. See how these tools can help. Read More . While antivirus and anti-malware tools usually feature their own ransomware scanning and prevention, anti-ransomware developers contend that their tools update faster, cover broader ransomware definitions, and offer better overall protection in a multi-layer security solution.

5.1 Cybereason RansomFree

Cybereason’s RansomFree is one of those awesome tools everyone should have a copy of. Developed by a company full of elite former military security experts (from the renown Israeli Unit 8200), RansomFree is a powerful layer of protection against the myriad potent ransomware variants in the wild.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

RansomFree keeps you safe by analyzing files for suspicious behavior. If the suspicious behavior is symptomatic of ransomware, the RansomFree immediate quarantines the file and your system is safe. To further secure the system, RansomFree places strategic bait files in critical folders. If an infection takes the bait, it is shut down.

Simply put, RansomFree is one of the best anti-ransomware options available to home users (and small business users).

5.2 Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware BETA

The Malwarebytes name is synonymous with security. Many of the extensive list of Malwarebytes for Windows (linked to earlier in the guide) features start life as beta testing products — anti-ransomware is just the latest step. Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware specifically monitors your system for known ransomware activity, blocking infections and quarantining infected files before system files are encrypted.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

At the current time, Anti-Ransomware should not run alongside the free version of Malwarebytes for Windows. Both programs use similar resources, causing a clash. The Premium version is fine, however.

5.3 Kaspersky Anti-Ransomware Tool

Kaspersky also has a vested interest in stopping ransomware. The Kaspersky antivirus suite is excellent. But their Anti-Ransomware tool adds an additional layer of security that puts many other options to shame. Kaspersky Lab is well known for its active approach to ransomware. Along with this free anti-ransomware tool, Kaspersky also develops and release ransomware decryption tools where possible.

As with Malwarebytes, you don’t need the main security suite to secure your system against ransomware better.

5.4 Antiransomware Roundup

Ransomware is undoubtedly one of the most troubling recent developments in security Is Ransomware Really as Terrifying as You Think? Is Ransomware Really as Terrifying as You Think? Ransomware is a regular nuisance. A ransomware infection takes your computer hostage, and demands payment for release. Often, payment doesn't secure your personal files. But is it really as terrifying as you think? Read More . As anyone who crosses path with a ransomware infection will tell you, it isn’t nice losing access to all of your files. Especially when there is potentially no way of recovering them. Anti-ransomware tools are finding their way into antivirus products. But there is no harm in introducing another security layer from a reputable developer.

6. Browser Security

Internet browsers are central to our daily online activity. You can probably count the days of the year you don’t use a browser at some point on your fingers. Shopping, banking, entertainment, socializing — internet browsers have it all.

At the same time, browsers are vulnerable. They have issues, are exploited by hackers and, as the portal to a vast amount of private data, are under near-constant attack. Phishing and other fraudulent attacks rose throughout 2017, malvertising campaigns saw increases What Is Malvertising and How Can You Protect Yourself? What Is Malvertising and How Can You Protect Yourself? Beware: malvertising is on the increase, representing a considerable online security risk. But what is it, why is it dangerous, where is it hiding, and how can you stay safe from malvertising? Read More , and cryptojacking became a growing issue What Is Cryptojacking and How Can You Avoid It? What Is Cryptojacking and How Can You Avoid It? A new security threat is in town: cryptojacking, in which your computer is hijacked to generate Bitcoins. But how widespread is it, and how can you stop your system being subverted in this way? Read More .

At some point, we made a collective decision that we like free internet content and services Facebook Is Tracking You! Here's How to Stop It Facebook Is Tracking You! Here's How to Stop It Who is tracking your movements online? ISPs, the government, Google... but what about social media sites like Facebook? Yes, them too. Here's how you stop Facebook tracking you around the internet. Read More . The consequence of that is advertising, almost everywhere. Unfortunately, some advertising services are more pervasive than others Are Android Ad Trackers Invading Your Privacy? Are Android Ad Trackers Invading Your Privacy? Exodus security researchers identified 71 trackers in more than 800 Android apps. What does that mean for you? We take a look at Android ad trackers to find out. Read More , while others deliver malicious content. Then there are the trackers, following us around the internet 4 Ways Your Location Is Being Tracked Everywhere You Go 4 Ways Your Location Is Being Tracked Everywhere You Go These days, it's common knowledge that your phone and computer are tracking your location. But it's not just Google and Facebook. Your whereabouts are being tracked in at least four more ways. Read More , creating unique advertising profiles that we have no chance of altering or deleting.

6.1 Scripts, Blockers, and Encryption

Several blockers make a serious difference to your overall internet security. I’m going to list them along with the browsers they operate in.

uBlock Origin

uBlock Origin is now one of the single best blockers out there. It comes with numerous inbuilt lists that block known malicious ad servers, malicious scripts, trackers, and more. It is easy to add and remove lists as you see fit, and the blocking lists regularly update with new targets.

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uBlock Origin is available for Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and Firefox. There is a Safari port, but this requires manual installation.

uMatrix

uMatrix is similar to uBlock Origin but allows for granular blocking of specific types of content on individual domains. For instance, you could block certain cookies from a site, while still accessing media content. uMatrix also features integrated user agent control and referral types.

uMatrix is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

Disconnect

Disconnect gives users a visual representation of exactly who and what is attempting to connect to their browser. By routing all of the user’s traffic through an encrypted tunnel, Disconnect allows us to pick and choose the advertising, analytics, social, and content requests that arrive in our browser.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

Disconnect is, however, a VPN in its own right. That means it doesn’t always work with your regular VPN, so you might want to choose a different option from the list Control Your Web Content: Essential Extensions to Block Tracking and Scripts Control Your Web Content: Essential Extensions to Block Tracking and Scripts The truth is, there is always someone or something monitoring your Internet activity and content. Ultimately, the less information we let these groups have the safer we'll be. Read More .

Disconnect is available for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari.

NoScript and ScriptSafe

NoScript is a pre-emptive malicious script-blocking app, available for Firefox.

SciptSafe, inspired by NoScript, is available for Chrome. It isn’t quite the same, as Chrome’s development style doesn’t allow the same functionality as NoScript. It is still a handy tool, nonetheless.

HTTPS Everywhere

HTTPS is slowly becoming the de facto internet security standard. But there are a huge number of sites out there that don’t use it. Some simply don’t need it, but you’ll still stumble across others that really could use the extra protection — and your private data needs it, too. HTTPS Everywhere forces websites to use the HTTPS protocol at all times, protecting your data wherever you go 10 Easy Ways to Protect Your Data While Travelling 10 Easy Ways to Protect Your Data While Travelling Protecting your data while travelling around is very important. Want to know how to keep your personal and private data safe when you're on the road? These tips will help. Read More .

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HTTPS Everywhere is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

Safari users should try and use DuckDuckGo, which redirects users to the HTTPS version of a site. Alternatively, try SSL Always, via the Mack Kung Fu blog. A Microsoft Edge HTTPS Everywhere port is underway.

6.2 Password Managers

I’m only dedicating a small segment to password managers. We have covered password managers extensively 4 Reasons Password Managers Aren’t Enough to Keep Your Passwords Safe 4 Reasons Password Managers Aren’t Enough to Keep Your Passwords Safe Password managers are valuable in the ongoing battle against hackers, but they don't offer sufficient protection on their own. These four reasons show why password managers aren't enough to keep your passwords safe. Read More — but I’ll give you the best three to consider.

LastPass

LastPass remains one of the best password management options for many users. It is easy to use, offers a secure vault for password storage 8 Easy Ways to Supercharge Your LastPass Security 8 Easy Ways to Supercharge Your LastPass Security You might be using LastPass to manage your many online passwords, but are you using it right? Here are eight steps you can take to make your LastPass account even more secure. Read More , and is priced extremely competitively. Better still, you don’t even have to drop the $24 a year for a premium subscription. The free version features almost as many features.

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Dashlane

Dashlane is LastPass’s biggest competitor, offering some of the best password management security available. This is achieved by way of its internally developed and patented security system. Dashlane also features a great UI that is extremely easy to manage. But Dashlane’s best feature is the bulk password changer. You can easily reset hundreds of passwords at once in a post-breach situation.

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Dashlane currently retails for $39.96.

KeePass

KeePass is an open-source password management solution. Rather than a multi-device, cloud storage approach, KeePass stores and encrypts your data locally. On the one hand, this is great. You don’t have to trust your internet connection to access your password vault, and so on. Conversely, you need to install KeePass on whichever device you’re using, making it a slightly slower process than its competitors. There are also heaps of plugins to extend the functionality of KeePass 8 Plugins to Extend & Secure Your KeePass Password Database 8 Plugins to Extend & Secure Your KeePass Password Database The KeePass password manager supports plugins that extend the usefulness of the program, much like a browser. Here are eight plugins you should consider adding to KeePass. Read More .

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

6.3 Browser Security Roundup

Blockers are contentious. Advertising pays for the vast majority of internet content. It pays for the guide you’re reading right now, and the rest of the awesome content you enjoy on MUO. As such, we never advise anyone to go out and block everything.

As the lash back against pervasive advertising continues, sites (like MUO) are using sympathetic advertising to generate revenue 3 Tactics For Dealing With Ad-Block Users On Your Site 3 Tactics For Dealing With Ad-Block Users On Your Site Leaving ethical discussions aside (since I made my views on that quite clear last time), it is nonetheless true that ad-blocking is a real problem for bloggers and site owners the world over whose only... Read More . This allows readers to keep enjoying their favorite content but not feel utterly bombarded by intrusive advertisements.

There are, however, instances where using a blocker is the only thing that works. I’ve seen more than enough malicious ads shut down by my blocker of choice. And with active whitelisting, you ensure the sites you care about — like MUO — receive advertising revenue while keeping the nasty ads out Please Whitelist MakeUseOf In Adblock: A Plea From a Former Adblock Filter Developer Please Whitelist MakeUseOf In Adblock: A Plea From a Former Adblock Filter Developer It’s no secret that we’re not huge fans of Adblock here at MakeUseOf. But we know that some of you won’t let go of Adblock until it’s pried out of your cold, dead hands. If... Read More .

Regarding password managers, each option comes with benefits. As most have a free option, or at least a free trial, test them and see what suits your needs. And if you need to migrate your password list How to Migrate From LastPass to an Alternative Password Manager How to Migrate From LastPass to an Alternative Password Manager LastPass is a popular password manager, but if you've decided to move to another solution, you'll need to export your data. Here's how to export your data into 1Password, Dashlane, or KeePass. Read More , we’ve got you covered.

7. Backup Tools

Along with preventative and protective software, you need to take regular system backups. Windows 10 has an integrated but basic backup service. Also, it is easy to confuse system backup with system imaging, and again with system restore points. (Check out our massive guide to Windows backups The Windows Backup and Restore Guide The Windows Backup and Restore Guide Disasters happen. Unless you're willing to lose your data, you need a good Windows backup routine. We'll show you how to prepare backups and restore them. Read More !)

  • System Image: An exact copy of an entire drive. A system image can be used to restore the computer to the moment the image was taken. System images are generally stored on the same system, ready for use, but can also export to removable media.
  • System Restore Point: Your system periodically creates System Restore points. If you encounter a major issue and can remember the last good working configuration, rolling back to a restore point is a good option.
  • Full Backup: A full backup is usually a compressed offline copy of an entire system or select parts of a system.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the best backup tools The Ultimate Windows 10 Data Backup Guide The Ultimate Windows 10 Data Backup Guide We've summarized every backup, restore, recovery, and repair option we could find on Windows 10. Use our simple tips and never despair over lost data again! Read More .

7.1 Cobian Backup

Cobian Backup is one of the best free backup tools on offer The Best Backup Software for Windows The Best Backup Software for Windows Your data is fragile – it only takes one small accident to lose everything. The more backups you make, the better. Here we present the best free backup software for Windows. Read More . If you want local or FTP backups, Cobian offers a range of advanced features that are largely easy to use. You can create a full backup, incremental backup, or differential backup, as well as setting the level of compression. Furthermore, you can create regular backup schedules and define the number of backups to keep before deleting old ones.

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The Cobian Backup interface is relatively simple, and the program is full of helpful tooltips if you get lost along the way.

7.2 Backblaze

If you prefer a cloud backup option, consider Backblaze. BackBlaze consistently rates amongst the best cloud backup solution CrashPlan for Home Shuts Down: What Now for Online Data Backups? CrashPlan for Home Shuts Down: What Now for Online Data Backups? CrashPlan is a popular cloud based backup provider. Their recent announcement to close the Home solution has left users in the cold. But here's what you can do next to safeguard your data. Read More . And, now that CrashPlan is slowly shutting down and disappearing, BackBlaze represents the best value cloud backup solution.

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BackBlaze is lightweight and features a minimalist UI that helps users find their way around. For most users, continuous backup is the best option. This means your backup is updated every time you make a change to or add a file to your system. While this sounds like it will drain system resources, it really doesn’t. Creating your initial backup should be the only time you notice Backblaze whirring up. Otherwise, it silently lurks in the background, taking care of business.

Backblaze currently retails for $50 for a single year’s license for a single device. This includes unlimited data.

7.3 Google Backup and Sync

The Google Drive app is now known as Backup & Sync The Google Drive Desktop App is Being Shutdown in March, 2018 The Google Drive Desktop App is Being Shutdown in March, 2018 Google is finally depreciating the aging Drive desktop app for both Windows and macOS. But have no fear, there is already a replacement. Let's take a look. Read More , and it features a nice new interface with a few extra tools. Your Google Drive account data limit is 15GB unless you have an unlimited account. Still, that 15GB is a great place to backup some of your vital files to on a regular basis.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

The desktop app still integrates with Windows Explorer but also features an updated interface for easy browsing. Backup and Sync also merges with the Google Photos Syncing app so that you can manage your photos from the same desktop app.

7.4 Backup Tools Roundup

You have three excellent choices for offline, cloud, and partial system backups. Creating backups is a vital part of any security routine, even more so since the advent of system-crippling ransomware attacks.

There are major benefits to both offline and cloud storage solutions, not least of all their connectivity. Many users find it prudent to use both options to maximize their potential for recovery.

8. Disk Encryption Tools

Next up, we consider the best tools for disk encryption. Disk encryption has made the news repeatedly after government agencies have struggled to access data on suspect devices. More and more “regular” users realize their data needs serious protection Don't Believe These 5 Myths About Encryption! Don't Believe These 5 Myths About Encryption! Encryption sounds complex, but is far more straightforward than most think. Nonetheless, you might feel a little too in-the-dark to make use of encryption, so let's bust some encryption myths! Read More and understand full disk encryption is an excellent option 3 Essential Security Terms You Need to Understand 3 Essential Security Terms You Need to Understand Confused by encryption? Baffled by OAuth, or petrified by Ransomware? Let's brush up on some of the most commonly used security terms, and exactly what they mean. Read More .

8.1 Bitlocker

One of the best full disk encryption options is BitLocker 4 Syskey Encryption Alternatives for Windows 10 4 Syskey Encryption Alternatives for Windows 10 Windows encryption tool Syskey will disappear with the upcoming Windows 10 update. Here are four alternative tools to secure your data. Read More . If you have Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education, you have BitLocker installed. It is just a matter of firing it up and learning how to use it. Unfortunately, Windows 10 Home users must use one of the (also excellent) alternatives below.

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BitLocker is great for a couple of reasons. One, it is fully integrated with your existing operating system. This alleviates issues regarding third-party software vulnerabilities. Second, it uses powerful encryption to keep your files completely secure, and you can select from a range unlock options too.

8.2 VeraCrypt

There are several free alternatives to BitLocker. Perhaps the best known is VeraCrypt 5 Effective Tools to Encrypt Your Secret Files 5 Effective Tools to Encrypt Your Secret Files We need to pay closer attention than ever before towards encryption tools and anything designed to protect our privacy. With the right tools, keeping our data safe is easy. Read More , built from the ashes of depreciated encryption tool, TrueCrypt TrueCrypt Is Dead: 4 Disk Encryption Alternatives For Windows TrueCrypt Is Dead: 4 Disk Encryption Alternatives For Windows TrueCrypt is no more, but fortunately there are other useful encryption programs. While they may not be exact replacements, they should suit your needs. Read More . VeraCrypt is full of handy tools. These include virtual encrypted disk creation and mounting, full drive or partition encryption, and pre-boot authentication.

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VeraCrypt gives users a wider range of encryption options than BitLocker. It has a choice of hashing algorithms too. If you’re not upgrading to Windows 10 Pro, VeraCrypt is absolutely the way to go 10 Great Security Tools You Should Be Using 10 Great Security Tools You Should Be Using You can never be too careful out there in the wild west that we like to call the Internet, so using free and low cost security tools is a good idea. The following are recommended. Read More . In fact, even if you do have BitLocker, still consider VeraCrypt’s advanced options. After all, it’s free.

8.3 Jetico BestCrypt Volume Encryption

Jetico is one of the best paid full disk encryption options on the market. It encrypts a huge range of volume types, including RAID drives, as well as offering pre-boot authentication (with awesome customizable text, too). Another useful option is only to boot selected encrypted volumes within a trusted network. That keeps your drive locked down unless connected to a predefined safe network.

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Jetico BestCrypt Volume Encryption currently retails for $119.99 for a single year’s license.

8.4 Full Disk Encryption Roundup

These three programs will give you all the encryption you need. BitLocker and VeraCrypt are both fantastic free encryption options, featuring a range of advanced tools that will stop even the most ardent attacker breaking into your private data. Just remember to keep your security keys somewhere of equal security — after all, you could become your own worst enemy if not.

9. The Best of the Rest

We’ve covered antivirus, antimalware, firewalls, and much more. But there are still more security programs to cover. This last section contains those programs every user should know about but aren’t always necessary to install. Knowing of their existence, however, could save your bacon further down the line, so give them a look over.

That said, other tools are just really useful, like Unchecky. Check out the full list below.

9.1 General Security

These programs work in the background of your computer and assist with your overall security.

Unchecky

Unchecky is an absolute system-saver in a time where many software installations come bundled with third-party extras that you neither want or need. And in some cases, the third-party extras are downright malicious. Install Unchecky, and it’ll make sure each potentially nefarious extra box remains unchecked unless you specifically select it.

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This tiny program has stopped more than a few unwanted extras over the years for me.

Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Beta

Premium Malwarebytes for Windows users already have this integrated Anti-Exploit tool — but those without, don’t. Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Beta is still available for download for everyone else, offering much of the same premium functionality offered to paying subscribers.

Here’s five more tools to protect you from zero-day exploits 5 Ways to Protect Yourself from a Zero-Day Exploit 5 Ways to Protect Yourself from a Zero-Day Exploit Zero-day exploits, software vulnerabilities that are are exploited by hackers before a patch becomes available, pose a genuine threat to your data and privacy. Here is how you can keep hackers at bay. Read More and more.

Parted Magic Disk Eraser

Parted Magic with GParted is a bootable Linux environment The PC Repair Toolkit in Your Pocket: Boot CD on a USB Stick The PC Repair Toolkit in Your Pocket: Boot CD on a USB Stick Inside my technician's toolkit I keep a USB flash drive loaded with the most amazing tools on the planet: my PC repair toolkit. In this article, I share its contents. Read More featuring one of the best secure wipe and erase tools around. Unlike many similar products, Parted uses the BIOS-only accessible Secure Erase function. You’ve never noticed this function because many manufacturers turn it off and hide the option because it simply obliterates your system. (Seriously, it writes zeroes to your entire drive making data essentially irretrievable.)

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The Disk Eraser comes with a few options, including shredding, wiping Master Boot Records, and more. This is a powerful tool that will destroy your data. Do not use it unless you’re 100 percent sure you’ve backed up your important files. They’re not coming back. Secure Erase also works with SSDs.

Secure Erase currently retails for $11.

Gpg4win

Gpg4win brings one of the best secure communication tools The Paranoid Conspiracy-Theorist's Guide To Online Privacy & Security The Paranoid Conspiracy-Theorist's Guide To Online Privacy & Security Can you stay anonymous online? With not too much and the use of easy to use web-based encryption, security and privacy tools, we believe you can. Let us show you how. Read More to Windows. GnuPG is an implementation of the OpenPGP standard primarily used to encrypt electronic communications. Once you install Gpg4win, you’ll spot an option to encrypt your messages Why WhatsApp's End-to-End Encryption Is a Big Deal Why WhatsApp's End-to-End Encryption Is a Big Deal WhatsApp recently announced that they would be enabling end-to-end encryption in their service. But what does this mean for you? Here's what you need to know about WhatsApp encryption. Read More within your email client. Here’s how it appears in Outlook, for instance.

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9.2 Ransomware Tools

Use these ransomware tools alongside the antiransomware programs listed above. Some of them are for specific issues. I’ll also list the five best resources to find ransomware decryption tools.

Trend Micro Ransomware Screen Unlocker Tool

The Trend Micro Ransomware Screen Unlocker is, well, just that. Several ransomware variants lock your screen. The ransomware demands payment to unlock your system. Lock screen ransomware is usually the “nicer” of the two major ransomware variants (the other is the system-wide file encrypting variety).

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The tool works in two scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: Lock Screen ransomware is blocking “normal mode,” but “safe mode” with networking is still accessible.
  • Scenario 2: Lock Screen ransomware is blocking both “normal mode” and “safe mode” with networking

Full instructions are available on the Trend Micro site.

ID Ransomware

Most ransomware variants announce their presence after encrypting your files, along with their name, via a ransom note. If that doesn’t happen, you need to upload an encrypted file to ID Ransomware (the site also accepts ransom notes or hyperlinks included in the ransom).

The site will quickly identify the infection.

5 Decryption Tool Lists

Once you know what you’re facing, you can find a tool to try and fix the damage. I’ve compiled a list of the best places to find ransomware decryptors. We’ve got a list of our own 12 Tools You Can Use to Help Beat Ransomware 12 Tools You Can Use to Help Beat Ransomware One of the biggest issues facing computer users is ransomware. And while a ransomware infection is notoriously difficult to fight, it isn't impossible. See how these tools can help. Read More too.

The awesome people over at The No More Ransom Project unlock upwards of 25,000 computers a year at the moment. They know what they’re doing!

9.3 DNS Alternatives

The Domain Name System (DNS) is the hierarchical naming system that connects numerical IP addresses to their easy-to-understand domain names. If you rent your router, or your ISP provides it for free, it will usually connect to the ISP default settings. But that doesn’t mean you have to stick to their default DNS settings. Several alternative DNS services are both faster and more secure 4 Reasons Why Using Third-Party DNS Servers Is More Secure 4 Reasons Why Using Third-Party DNS Servers Is More Secure Why is changing your DNS a good idea? What security benefits does it bring? Can it really make your online activities more secure? Read More .

OpenDNS

This is an easy way to make your internet connection a little bit safer. OpenDNS features active phishing protection, will block known malvertising and malware domains Don't Be a Victim of Malvertising: Stay Safe with These Tips Don't Be a Victim of Malvertising: Stay Safe with These Tips One reason why we are seeing a rise in advanced malware reaching our computers is the improvement of malware delivery. Aside from increases in phishing, campaigns, security researchers have noted a significant rise in malvertising. Read More and is easily extended to the whole family 7 Family Safety Tools To Keep Your Kids Safe Online 7 Family Safety Tools To Keep Your Kids Safe Online Like the real world, the internet can sometimes be a scary place for your kids. There are some great apps and tools to keep them safe; here are some we think are the best. Read More . Unfortunately, there is a slight downside to OpenDNS. The company stores your DNS and IP address information to catalog “what content is effective.”

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So while you are more secure, your privacy is still somewhat (though less-so) up for grabs.

Google Public DNS

A switch to Google Public DNS absolutely brings faster browsing speeds. Google Public DNS is the largest DNS service in the world, serving over 400 billion requests per day. The sheer volume and global coverage means a Google DNS server is always nearby.

Also, when your ISP designated DNS is suffering issues, switching to Google Public DNS almost always brings your connection back online. There is, however, a downside. Like OpenDNS, your privacy isn’t entirely secure when using Google’s DNS service. Your searches are anonymized, but Google’s general privacy policy states “We may combine personal information from one service with information . . . from other Google services.”

DNS Watch

A truly security and privacy-focused service, DNS Watch offers several features that set it apart from Google Public DNS and OpenDNS. For instance, DNS Watch Privacy Protection ensures there is no request logging. Similarly, DNS Watch is committed to keeping your data private, meaning it will not be sold to any third-party advertisers or otherwise.

DNSCrypt

DNSCrypt is a network protocol that encrypts traffic between your system and your DNS service of choice. Even when using a VPN or HTTPS, the domain name needs to resolve using a DNS query. At times, this process is hijacked and used maliciously. DNSCrypt authenticates communication between the DNS client and the DNS server, ensuring nothing tampers with the DNS resolution.

9.4 Secure Browsers

Beefing up your browser security is an excellent security boost. But some browsers already combine many of the most important security features into a single package, with some extras, too. Some mainstream browser alternatives are slightly slower than your regular browser, so bear that in mind.

Tor Browser

Tor is an interconnected network of anonymous nodes that allow users a significant amount of anonymity. It essentially encrypts your communication as it passes from one connected node to another. You will have spotted Tor in the news — it is regularly portrayed as the playground of hackers, cybercriminals, and terrorists.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

Tor is more than that. In a world where surveillance is vast, and privacy is constantly eroding, Tor provides respite. And while Tor is portrayed as the gateway to a world of illicit activity, it is also a vital tool for journalists, activists, and other individuals who demand private and secure communication. And there are some sites you might actually like 6 Little-Known Corners Of The Deep Web You Might Actually Like 6 Little-Known Corners Of The Deep Web You Might Actually Like The deep web has a bad reputation—just about every bad thing you can think of is available there. But there are also some really great things you might want to check out. Read More !

The Tor Browser is the easiest way to use the Tor network. It is infinitely more accessible than in its early days and, so long as you don’t mess with any settings, your browser traffic will be secure after installation. However, Tor isn’t a VPN. Your system network traffic isn’t encrypted, just Tor Browser traffic.

Sounds good? Check out my Unofficial User’s Guide to Tor Really Private Browsing: An Unofficial User’s Guide to Tor Really Private Browsing: An Unofficial User’s Guide to Tor Tor provides truly anonymous and untraceable browsing and messaging, as well as access to the so called “Deep Web”. Tor can’t plausibly be broken by any organization on the planet. Read More — it is a great introduction to the browser and protocol.

Epic Browser

Epic Browser doesn’t feature a built-in underground network 4 Anonymous Web Browsers That Are Completely Private 4 Anonymous Web Browsers That Are Completely Private A good way to protect your information on the web is to surf anonymously. Google Chrome’s Incognito mode can help to an extent, but you should also look at the following web browsers. Read More . But it does turn off and filter out the numerous scripts and trackers that compromise your security. Furthermore, it doesn’t save your history, doesn’t allow DNS pre-fetching, there is no web or DNS cache, and no auto-fill feature.

best computer security and antivirus tools and apps

Brave

I really like the open source Brave browser. For a start, it is fast, making it an ideal switch for those clunking around with a mainstream alternative What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser? What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser? The battle for the best desktop browser will never be settled. But which is the most secure? All boast having superior protection -- but in 2017, which is the browser of choice for the security-... Read More . Brave also does an excellent job of blocking scrips, ad trackers, and more. It features a neat new tab background displaying the number of trackers and ads blocked, along with the browsing time saved.

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Brave is actively developed by a passionate community that truly believes in protecting privacy and increasing security. Oh, it also features integrated HTTPS Everywhere, too.

9.5 Security Courses for Beginners

There are two single factors in every security scenario: the user, and the computer. In many cases, the user isn’t entirely at fault. But if you’ve become the family security expert, you’ll know the “user factor” is draining and all-too-real. Network administrators worldwide share your pain.

As such, education is something we advocate at MakeUseOf. Just a little bit of security information goes a long way, even in a shifting environment. Here are five free courses for beginners you can take yourself, or casually send to the rest of the family.

10. Security Tool Roundup

We are at the end of the line, friend. Hopefully, you have constructed a multilayered security wall for your system. The important thing is not to panic. Yes, there are a huge amount of threats out there. Yes, they are getting worse as our dependence on computers grows. No, you shouldn’t disconnect from everything ever and live in a cave.

Another great resource is my complete malware removal guide The Complete Malware Removal Guide The Complete Malware Removal Guide Malware is everywhere these days, and eradicating malware from your system is a lengthy process, requiring guidance. If you think your computer is infected, this is the guide you need. Read More . It will help you overcome the vast majority of infections. Combined with this guide, you’ll boost your security knowledge immeasurably.

Image Credit: alphaspirit/Depositphotos

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  1. rk
    February 7, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Is this article available as a pdf download? I didn't see the link at the top...pls reply.
    Thanks!

  2. Osborne Lamoree
    February 6, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    I like to have control of what an A/V or such does when it detects a problem. I hate the ones that decide for me to Delete or prevent ME from deciding. I found SecureA Plus and have been using it for about a year. The only downside is that it runs during start-up which makes the boot rather long, BUT if/when it detects a problem it informs me just which of 14 malware sites classify the problem and why. It gives me the choice to check the problem against other malware sites and lets ME decide whether to allow it, delete it, or whatever. I like that.

  3. David Mcgregor
    January 29, 2018 at 6:04 am

    Windows isn't great just because it is installed on so many devices. It is installed on new PCs, laptops by manufacturers who have been paid by third party software developers to install their software which maybe only work on windows products. And if windows is that great why have new desktops, laptops and other windows based devices been declining in consumer sales since windows 7 came out. And don't say because it is windows 10 is great because the decline is continuing if windows 10 was great it would be the opposite.

    • dragonmouth
      February 6, 2018 at 6:50 pm

      It has nothing to do with the quality or lack thereof of Windows, OS/X, Linux or any other O/S. People are using their smartphones as computers. For what most people do, they do not need anything besides their smartphones. To play Angry Birds or tweet or exchange inanities on Facebook you don't need the latest i& or Rizen processor backed up with a $1000 video card. All it takes is a basic smartphone.

  4. Ashton
    January 26, 2018 at 5:45 am

    From my experience.
    For av ms one is enough, viruses ain't as much of an issue these days.
    Add malwarebytes though since malware are most common issue these days.
    Umatrix and ublock are also good.
    Don't use chrome if you care about privacy.

    Most importantly use your head. Best security measure.

  5. Sam
    January 25, 2018 at 4:08 am

    It would help if you listed a few reputable VPN providers too like ExpressVPN and PIA

    • Gavin Phillips
      January 25, 2018 at 11:49 am

      Hi Sam.

      I actually neglected to include VPNs because we have a huge range of VPN focused articles already. However, now you mention it, it does seem somewhat lacking...

    • sam
      February 6, 2018 at 8:08 pm

      I'll definitely back PIA, great software.

  6. dragonmouth
    January 24, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    "But there are a huge number of sites out there that don’t use it."
    MAKE USE OF prominently being one of them! MUO preaches security but when push comes to shove, it refuses to adopt what is becoming the de facto internet security standard.

    MUO also does not allow the use of masked email addresses. Every time I try to leave a comment using my masked email, the comment winds up going off into oblivion. Only when I use my actual email address, are my comments posted.

    MUO speaks with forked tongue when it comes to security.

    • Keith
      January 24, 2018 at 6:59 pm

      @Dragonmouth, MUO is using HTTPS on my Firefox 57 on macOS, and I'm not using HTTPS Everywhere. Good point about masked emails, though.

      • dragonmouth
        January 24, 2018 at 8:20 pm

        You're right. I just checked and the URL does start with HTTPS. Until recently, whenever I put in https in front of the MUO URL, I got a "address not found" or some such error message. My apologies to Make Use Of.

        • Gavin Phillips
          January 25, 2018 at 11:39 am

          Aye, MUO has had HTTPS for a little while now. We always had it on our deals and courses page because that side of the site was actually dealing with logins and private user data. This was extended to cover the main site in 2017.

    • Keith
      January 24, 2018 at 7:03 pm

      This is a very Windows-centric article. While some of the tools are available for macOS and Linus, you should include "for Windows" in the headline. Good run-down, though.

      There's something to be aware of about Avast: "To detect malware and threats on HTTPS sites, Avast must remove the SSL certificate and add its self-generated certificate." If you trust Avast, this is all well and good, but if Avast ever gets hacked, their users are in trouble. The only way I found out about this was because Agilebits.com, the maker of 1Password (an excellent password manager that you didn't list), wouldn't open with Avast web shield enabled. You can read more about it here: https://discussions.agilebits.com/discussion/comment/264053/#Comment_264053.

      • dragonmouth
        January 25, 2018 at 1:32 pm

        "This is a very Windows-centric article."
        MUO is a Windows-centric site. The powers that be at MUO do not consider Linux/BSD, or even Mac, sufficiently significant to devote too much space to them. After all, Windows must be a great O/S if it is installed on so many devices.