13 best antivirus software platforms, per a cybersecurity expert
By Victoria Giardina
Much like the best password protector services out there, investing in antivirus software isn’t as expensive as you would think — and it provides a safety net for your online data.
Not to mention, when investing in quality smart home devices — like your treasured laptops and desktops — you want to make sure that hefty purchase isn’t being compromised.
Luckily, one of the 13 best antivirus software programs of 2023 can help.
“A computer virus is a malicious piece of software that spreads between computers and can harm your computer or steal your information,” David Bader, PhD, distinguished professor of data science at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) told the New York Post. “For instance, viruses can delete your files, watch your keystrokes (and grab your login information for your online bank account), or turn your computer into a weapon to attack corporate or government websites.”
For unmatched protection, check out the best antivirus software programs, as vetted by our cybersecurity expert. For more on what these entail — including what malware, spyware and adware actually mean — check out our FAQ section below.
1. McAfee Antivirus, $35 for the first year
For the past 35 years, McAfee has held a premium spot as one of the earliest and best-known companies offering antivirus software. It offers antivirus software for all major platforms (Windows, macOS, Android, iOS). “McAfee has a 30-day free trial with “all-in-one” protection that includes a VPN for privacy when using public WiFi networks, web protection to avoid phishing scams, identity monitoring, and more,” Bader adds.
For new customers, McAfee’s basic edition protects up to five devices and costs $35 for the first year and $85 per year after that. For an additional $45 per year, the premium edition adds parental controls and protects up to ten devices, and for another $30 per year, McAfee’s ultimate edition protects an unlimited number of devices and includes $1 million of identity theft coverage and identity restoration assistance.
2. Norton Antivirus Plus, $10 for the first year
As one of the names synonymous with computer security, per Bader, Norton has been offering antivirus software for just over thirty years. From its AntiVirus Plus to its 360 Deluxe version, it has a slew of digital products for you to shop.
The Antivirus Plus offers protection for a single PC or Mac at $10 for the first year, and $60 a year thereafter. This service includes Anti-Spyware, 2GB of cloud backup, a smart firewall, a password manager and an online privacy monitor, too.
If you’d like more protection on your smartphone and tablet, its 360 bundle is $85 per year (now on sale for just $30!), upping the cloud backup to 10GB and including a VPN for public WiFi use. For more protection including for smartphones and tablets, Norton offers its Norton 360 bundles with the standard version ($85/year) increasing the cloud backup to 10GB, and incorporating a VPN for public WiFi use.
3. AVG Ultimate, $60 for the first year
AVG Ultimate offers antivirus protection for PC, Mac, Android, and iOIS, and costs $60 for the first year, and $128 per year after that, for protecting up to 10 devices. In addition to antivirus protection, AVG Ultimate also has an array of nifty features:
- Capabilities to manage battery profiles: This enables you to maximize your computer, smartphone, or tablet’s performance while minimizing battery use.
- Device lock: This stops unwanted visitors from accessing your phone.
- Startup optimizer: This stops software you don’t use or care about from slowing down your device’s time to boot up.
- Payment protection: This encrypts and keeps safe all of your online payments from the prying eyes of hackers.
- Smart photo cleaner: This finds duplicate and poor-quality photos on your device and deletes them to free up space.
- Browser and disk cleaner: This finds and erases junk files.
- Sensitive data shield: This secures your most sensitive files.
- GPS tracking: This helps to find a lost device.
“AVG Ultimate includes this whole bundle of security-related tools and services without having to buy additional packages,” Bader adds.
4. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, $30 for the first year
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, impressively, protects up to three Windows devices from viruses including malware, spyware and adware. It’s $30 for the first year and $60 per year thereafter.
Bader calls this a “no-frills product,” with the next plan level, Bitdefender Internet Security is $80 per year and includes a firewall and parental controls. “The ultimate plan, Bitdefender Total Security, is $90 per year, includes protection for up to five devices and is the only plan that also protects every OS (Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS) as well as including a device optimizer that places your device in game, movie, and work modes to save the battery while maximizing performance.”
5. Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus, $30 for the first year
Providing baseline antivirus protection, Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus secures your data on one Windows or Mac device at $30 for the first year and $40 each year after. “Its claim is that it runs 60x faster than the scan time of other tested competitor antivirus products and takes 20 seconds to check your computer for malware by being fully cloud-based,” Bader said.
What’s more, Webroot offers a VPN for WiFi Security for up to three devices along with antivirus software at $110 a year.
6. Cylance Smart Antivirus, $45 per block of data protection
“Cylance technology is now incorporated into BlackBerry Cybersecurity and being incorporated into BlackBerry’s unified endpoint security solution,” Bader explains.
This integrated threat prevention solution combines artificial intelligence (AI) to help “block malware infections with additional security controls that safeguard against script-based, fileless, memory, and external device-based attacks,” per its site. After taking a consultation, you’ll receive a quote, which is usually $45 per block of data protection.
7. Emsisoft Anti-Malware, $30 for the first year
Only available for Windows, Emsisoft Anti-Malware has a 30-day free trial and then costs $30 per year for each device. “The software also includes extensive protections for finding and removing malware from your system and malware removal assistance,” Bader notes.
8. ESET NOD32 Antivirus
For just $40 a year, ESET NOD32 Antivirus secures each Windows and Mac device while including malware, ransomware, and phishing protection. At $50 per year, ESET Internet Security “also protects Android devices and includes two additional protection features for privacy and banking and for network and smart devices,” Bader explains.
The ultimate protection, however, is ESET Smart Security Premium: $60 per year per device with an included password manager, sensitive data encryption and protection against new threats. “It’s disappointing, though, that a customer must buy this higher cost package to be protected against never-before-seen threats,” Bader commented.
9. F-Secure Anti-Virus
As one of the oldest antivirus companies — founded in 1988 — F-Secure “has a strong international presence in Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific regions,” per Bader. It’s available for Windows only and costs $36 per year to protect one computer or $40 for up to three computers.
“F-Secure has additional security product add-ons including F-Secure SAFE for internet security ($70 for up to three devices per year), F-Secure FREEDOME VPN for secure and private browsing ($55 for up to three devices per year), and F-Secure ID PROTECTION for secure passwords and online identity ($60 for up to five devices per year),” Bader said. The premium package from F-Secure, TOTAL, provides full online protection at $90 a year for up to three devices.
10. G Data Antivirus
G DATA Software is a German cybersecurity company that “claims to have made the first antivirus software in 1987,” Bader notes. The G DATA Antivirus protection for a single Windows PC costs $30 for the first year and $40 per year thereafter, while the Mac version is a bit more expensive at $40 for the first year and $55 each year after.
“G DATA also offers an Internet Security package with a firewall and parental monitoring at $55 per year per device, and a Total Security bundle for $70 per year per device that includes a password manager, encrypted backups, access control, and an integrated tuner for performance and security,” Bader adds.
11. Malwarebytes Premium
If you frequent the Internet often, you’ve likely heard of Malwarebytes Premium: an antivirus software for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Chrome, costing $40 per year for one device or $80 per year for up to five devices. It includes both antivirus protection and a browser guard, too.
“For $100 a year for up to five devices, Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy includes a VPN for safe WiFi-only protection,” Bader highlights. “A free Windows version can be used to clean up an infected computer and limited trials to for the other antivirus protections.”
12. Sophos Home Premium
Sophos Home Premium costs $45 for all of your Windows and Mac devices and is “basic antivirus software that scans and cleans malware from your system, protects your privacy online, and has parental web filtering,” per Bader. Conveniently, there are no complicated add-ons and upgraded packages.
“Sophos Home Premium keeps the package simple to buy and use, with everything included,” he adds.
13. Trend Micro Antivirus+Security
“Trend Micro’s Internet Security software for Windows only includes online privacy controls and fixes and optimizes systems, and costs $80 per year for up to three devices,” Bader said.
Its basic package, Antivirus+Security, protects a single Windows PC from viruses and ransomware and costs $20 for the first year and $40 for each year thereafter. Uniquely, Trend Micro’s Maximum Security bundle is the only product from Trend Micro for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Chromebooks, that “includes a password manager and secures mobile devices along with the antivirus protection” and costs $90 per year for up to five devices,” Bader said.
An FAQ on Antivirus Software
What is a computer virus?
Nobody likes them, but it’s important to know how these pesky tech inconveniences and breaches begin.
“Viruses can propagate in many ways such as through email attachments, unwitting downloads from infected websites, and through shared USB memory sticks,” Bader explains. “Antivirus software exists for all popular computing platforms (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS) and scans your system, memory, and files (including downloads) for known viruses.”
When the antivirus software detects a virus, it may take several actions including cleaning the virus from the system and placing infected files in quarantine.
What benefits come with some antivirus software, besides protection?
Aside from giving you (and your files) peace of mind, Bader highlights other add-ons some programs include.
“Antivirus software often comes bundled with other security features such as secure password keepers, protection against clicking on malicious links to websites and scans of the dark web to find if your information has been compromised and potentially sold to hackers,” he notes.
What does malware mean?
Malware is malicious software that you may receive through an email attachment or other file transfer that can take over your computer if you run it. “Be cautious when clicking on links in the body of emails from unknown or faked senders, or opening any file sent to you that you weren’t expecting,” Bader tips off. “These are the main ways hackers send you malware.”
What does spyware mean?
More niche, spyware is a type of malware that watches everything you do on the computer and steals information. “For instance, spyware can monitor your keystrokes for all of your passwords, including ones for your bank accounts, social media, and email accounts,” Bader explains. “Spyware gathers information that can be used against your or your business and sends it to third parties who may sell the private information on the dark web or craft even more personalized attacks against you and your friends.”
What does adware mean?
According to Bader, adware is different from spyware and is generally unwanted software, usually connected to your web browser, that watches your activity and puts annoying ads up on your screen. Some antivirus software packages can scan and remove adware from your computer.
Is antivirus software necessary?
Like your car and home insurance, investing about $20 to $50 yearly is surely worth it. Not to mention, the service pairs well with a password protector, too.