Anyone who grew up with a Windows PC will understand the importance of installing antivirus software and keeping your operating system and other programs up-to-date, but an alarming number of people do not take the same precautions with their other digital devices.
Whilst it may be true that it is more difficult for hackers to target mobile devices in theory, as most smartphones and tablets only allow users to install apps from official app stores from Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, they are far from immune, there is no such thing a a completely secure and unhackable system. Hackers, criminal gangs, and foreign governments do not care what platform you have chosen – if you have valuable information they want then you will become a target, and they will find your device with the weakest protection.
Apple has worryingly given its users the impression that OSX and iOS are inherently secure devices, and whilst there is an argument to say they are more secure than some competitors, they are still vulnerable to malware. Apple users used to benefit from security through obscurity, as the Mac install base was too small for most hackers to bother targeting, but Apple’s resurgence since the introduction of the iPod in 2001 means that is no longer the case with Mac malware seeing a 230% rise this year. It is crucial, therefore, to make sure your Apple products run security software too and AV-test has put the leading options through their paces.
As Apple only lets iPhone and iPad users install apps via its official App Store, cases of malware on the mobile OS are thankfully rare for most users, with those that use Jailbroken devices more often the targets. However, a recent report from SkyCure found that the rate of infections has increased over the last year. Most standard iOS users may not need antivirus software today, but they do need to be careful to consistently update the OS and follow basic digital security practices when using the devices.
Android is another story. Google’s mobile software is generally reasonably secure, but the lack of updates from the wealth of different manufacturers and the different skins and other bells and whistles they add make for an ecosystem that is much less secure than iOS. Moreover, while Jailbreaking an iPhone is beyond the technical abilities of most users, to enabled app sideloading in Android is as simple as sliding a switch in settings – this may be great for installing a wider variety of apps from all kinds of sources, but it is inherently less secure.
Android’s security issues have created a market for antivirus and security apps similar to that available to Windows on the desktop, with dozens of competitors both free and paid. AV-test does a great job of comparing the various options from the likes of Avast, AVG, Kaspersky, and other names you may not have previously discovered, and they found Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android to be the “most secure Android app”, a position backed up by popular tech website Tom’s Guide.
Windows suffers from the same problems as Android when it comes to security, as it is both by far the most widely used desktop operating system and lets users install software from a variety of sources, both official and not. Windows 10 was a huge improvement in security over the likes of Windows XP, with Microsoft both switching on automatic updates by default and bundling a limited antivirus suite called Security Essentials, but it remains the biggest target for hackers and other nefarious groups looking to steal your information. AV-test is again the place to turn for overall ratings of the best antivirus software, and the group gave Ahnlab, Avira, BitDefender, Kaspersky, Mcafee, eScan, and Trend Micro all top scores, while Tom’s Guide chose BitDefender as its winner.
As hackers will always target your least protected device as the best way into your personal files, it is crucial that all your devices are protected, from the MacBook Air to your Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphones to your iPad to your Windows gaming desktop – they all need protection. Luckily the security software industry has worked out that most people use a variety of devices across a number of platforms throughout the week, and some firms offer software bundles that keep your Windows, OSX, Android, and iOS devices all secured for a single yearly fee with names like Total Security or Total Protection. The choice as to which to select depends on the number of devices you want to secure and the platforms they run on, but PCMag picked Bitdefender Total Security 2018 as their winner, and we can;t fault their decision.
Photograph by Pixel Creatures