Computer viruses have been around almost as long as PCs have – and they aren’t going to disappear anytime soon. Our latest internet security tests compared new programs from the likes of Norton, McAfee and Kaspersky to see which will protect your computer best.
No matter whether you’ve got a Windows PC or an Apple Mac, we’ve identified the programs you can rely on – and those that are more likely to let a virus, scam or malicious software slip through the net.
And if you’re looking for a no-cost option to protect your laptop or desktop computer, we’ve tested free security programs, too. If you’re unsure which free download to install from AVG, Avast, Avira or Sophos, we can definitively let you know the most secure, easy-to-use solution.
Just want to know which internet security package tops the lot? Check out our rundown of the best antivirus software.
Best internet security for 2017
It takes more than simply being vigilant against viruses for security software to pick up Best Buy status. It also has to be wise to attempted phishing scams, a doddle to set up and use and not prone to passing on malicious software – also known as malware – from other devices or operating systems. The odd extra feature such automated back-up or parental controls doesn’t go amiss either.
According to Which? tech expert Adam Marshall, the very best internet security for Windows we tested this year is a ‘superb security suite across the board,’ that ‘gives you the information you need, when you need it, without unnecessary prompts and introductions’. That’s what we want to see from an antivirus program – jargon-free virus protection that instills confidence that your computer is safe from harm.
It also has some useful features to protect your online identity, including a browser that comes ‘sandboxed’ so it can’t be spied on or meddled with when you’re shopping or banking. There’s even an optional on-screen keyboard to fool nefarious programs that try to steal your passwords.
To find out which antivirus program we’re talking about and how it compares to the rest, head to our internet security package reviews.
Best free antivirus for 2017
Free security programs don’t tend to include the same extra features as paid-for packages, but our tests revealed several options that still offer strong anti-malware and scam prevention.
In fact, this year one such free download took the acclaim of Best Buy status. It’s a ‘lean, mean, virus-killing machine’, says our expert. A ‘no-frills package that doesn’t cluster its interface with lots of details or complex options’. So ideal if you want a free layer of defence and aren’t bothered about extra features.
Our tests revealed several free antivirus programs that offer strong anti-malware and scam prevention
We also tested Microsoft’s built in Windows Defender security. If you’re a Windows 10 or 8.1 user, our results will tell you whether or not you really need to download an additional antivirus program – or whether Defender offers sufficient peace of mind.
Find out which free internet security is worth downloading by checking out our rundown of the best free antivirus packages.
How we test antivirus software
To put every antivirus program we review through their paces, we download them on to our test computer one at a time and then subject them to a relentless barrage of attacks. For starters, to make sure they’re hot on malware, we use multiple attack methods to try and get past them and infect the computer. We download dodgy files, insert virus ridden USB sticks and even plug in affected Android devices. The best software on test will immediately recognise that something’s up without prompting, and then proactively neutralise the threat.
However, watertight protection must also be simple to install, use and manage – so if the software is a nightmare to operate or can’t be installed without a couple of calls to tech support, it will get a low star rating for ease-of-use.
If a program offers extra features – such as parental controls, tune-up tools, or identity protection for when you shop or bank online – we check to see how effective they are, along with further checks to see how good they are at spotting and preventing phishing scams.
For more details on the lengths we go to evaluate internet security packages, read our guide on how we test antivirus software.