Is Anti-malware software always a good idea?

There are downsides to using an anti-malware package, and it's worth taking a moment to consider them.


Providing a false sense of security

Some security professionals point out that anti-malware tools can give people a false sense of security, and they may feel more comfortable taking riskier actions assuming that their software will protect them. And thanks to the ever-changing threat landscape, it's simply not possible for anti-malware software to catch all malware.

Creating new vulnerabilities

Others point to the increased “attack surface” your computer can have when you give something like anti-malware software such wide-reaching access to your computer. The software used to protect you could in theory be turned against you by a clever enough bad actor. The hope is, of course, that a good anti-malware package will prevent this from happening.

Privacy considerations

Some folks point to the potential privacy concerns of allowing third-party software, like anti-malware packages, access to scan every website you visit and email you send. Plus, in some packages, some data is sent to the cloud for scanning and investigation.

Performance impact

Finally, some anti-malware tools were known to severely slow down computers and even prevent normal activities from being possible thanks to false positive and overly restrictive rules. For most modern computers and good anti-malware packages, this is less of an issue these days, but it does still come up.

Choose what is best for your situation

For these reasons, anti-malware software may not be for everyone. Some believe that if you're a highly technical computer user, you know how to keep yourself safe online, and don't have any highly sensitive systems you're connecting to, you're better off using the built-in protections of macOS and Windows.

Overall, it comes down to personal preference and if you agree with an anti-malware provider's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policies. Be sure to familiarize yourself with those from your chosen anti-malware provider before committing to the software.

My recommendation

I believe that, for most people, the benefits of having a good anti-malware tool outweighs these downsides with the layers of protection it can add. You can learn more about my current package recommendation and how to set it up here.

What about Windows Defender? Doesn't Windows include anti-malware now?

It does! And many sources indicate that it's doing a pretty good job of protecting computers these days. It doesn't have as extensive of a feature set offered by other providers, so I recommend adding additional tools to your set. Windows Defender can still run regularly in scan mode and work alongside other packages, as long as you enable it in your Windows Security settings.

Do I really need an anti-malware package for Mac? I thought Macs don't get viruses.

It's a common misconception because for years Mac market share seemed to make it a smaller target. But these days I believe it's just as important to have those extra layers on a Mac as anything else. Think of it as a second opinion to the built-in security and your own good practices.

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