Does antivirus software stop hackers?

Does Antivirus Software Stop Hackers?

Does your small office home office (SOHO) business need an antivirus solution? In this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about antivirus, why your small business might need it, and our top recommendations for antivirus software.

Without further ado, let us begin.

What Is Antivirus Software?

An antivirus is a type of software developed for one main purpose: to protect computers (and nowadays including mobile devices) from a group of harmful programs we call malware: worms, computer viruses, spyware, rootkits, key-loggers, botnets, and more.

Antivirus software mainly has three main purposes:

  • Scan your device(s) for various types of viruses and malware.
  • Notify you of potentially harmful viruses and malware.
  • Quarantine and/or remove viruses and malware.

While there are many different types of antivirus software from various different companies, these three prime objectives remain more or less the same.

It’s very important to note that new viruses and malware are always being developed every single day, and so the antivirus program must update its database to include the latest malware and viruses.

Most antivirus software solutions will automatically update its malware definition database from time to time, which is important so that the antivirus software can properly detect the most recent viruses.

Also, there are antivirus software solutions that store their malware definition database in the cloud, so they won’t need to download the database to your computer. This can be a valuable feature to save space, allows the antivirus to scan faster, and maintain a more complete threat detection ability.

How Does Antivirus Software Work

As we have briefly discussed above, although there are many different companies that build antivirus software, most of them have similar essential features.

Most antivirus software has three main filtering or scanning features: instant, automated, and manual:

  • Instant scanning: the antivirus software will automatically scan your system, check files that are downloaded from the internet, USBs you plug into the computer, and so on.
  • Automated scanning: or programmed scanning, the software will check your entire hard drive(s) on a daily basis or according to your preference.
  • Manual scanning: can check a single file or document according to your needs, or scan the whole system/network whenever necessary.

So, to summarize, here are some essential functions of antivirus software:

  • Scan specific files or any directories for any malware or viruses or other malicious programs
  • Schedule automated scans to run according to your preferences
  • Manually initiate a scan of your entire system, a CD/DVD, USB drive
  • Remove and/or quarantine any malware and malicious code detected. You might be notified when there’s an infection and you can decide on the course of actions, or the software might do this automatically.
  • Report the overall security of your computer/device

Can Antivirus Software Stop Hackers?

The short answer to this question is, yes, but only to some extent.

It’s important to note that not all hacking attempts utilize the use of malware and ransomware, but there are also hacking attempts that don’t use any malware at all like phishing or DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks.

So, to answer this in a better perspective: antivirus software can stop hackers that are relying on malware, viruses, trojans, ransomware, and any malicious coding that is included in the antivirus’s malware definition database.

This also means that if the attack is done by a completely new virus (zero-day attack) where the malware isn’t yet included in the antivirus database, your antivirus won’t be able to defend against it.

Premium, advanced antivirus software offers various advanced features like behavioral protection techniques to detect suspicious behavior as early as possible to effectively stop zero-day exploit and new malware.

So, no antivirus protection is 100% hack-proof, and that’s a fact we must embrace. Cyber-security is changing daily, and new threats and hacking attacks come all the time.

To fully defend your system/your Small Office Home Office (SOHO) company, you’ll need at least the following:

  • Antivirus software: Although we’ve established that antivirus software alone is not enough, it is still one of, if not the most important aspect in any person/company’s cyber-security. An antivirus’s role here is to act as your first layer of defense against malware.
  • Firewall: Most computers have some sort of firewall, but if necessary you should upgrade to a premium firewall solution. (affiliate opportunity or for the next content)
  • VPN/Proxy: The role of a VPN or proxy is to act as an intermediary between your computer/device and a website/service provider to mask your IP address and physical location.
  • Encryption software: Many hacking attempts are made to steal or modify sensitive and valuable data such as confidential information and valuable documents. Encrypting this data will ensure that hackers can’t use such data and files even when they are stolen.
  • Update management solution: running outdated software and operating system is very risky since many hackers attack by using known vulnerabilities which haven’t been updated. There are various update management apps(affiliate/content opportunities) that ensure all your essential software and apps are updated and patched automatically. These solutions can also notify you for any software that has known vulnerabilities but the update is not yer available.
  • Backup solution: External/cloud storage to backup your data. Very important so that even when your data is stolen, your site/business can still operate while you resolve the issue,(affiliate/content opportunities)
  • Data loss prevention (DLP) software: DLP software (affiliate/content opportunities) can spot when your database is compromised and when data is leaving your system. The DLP software will then take the appropriate measures and stop the “leak”.

Do You Really Need Antivirus Software?

The answer to this question is a strict yes.

In early 2017, Gizmodo posted an article that you don’t really need an antivirus app anymore. It received a lot of backlashes back then, but many people also agreed with the article.

Gizmodo is right that today Windows (which was infamous as the most vulnerable OS) is much more secure than in 2005, and our internet browsers are now far more robust at detecting attacks.

However, cybercriminals and cybersecurity threats are also evolving just as quickly. There are 16.76 million of new malware programs in the month of January 2020 alone, and so if you don’t have proper antivirus software, your business is vulnerable to tens of millions of malware every single month.

Your antivirus software’s main role is to keep your site and business safe by detecting incoming attacks as early as possible. As discussed above, today’s modern antivirus solutions have various advanced detection capabilities that don’t solely rely on its malware definition database.

Also, it’s worth noting that it’s not just your desktop computers, laptops, and servers that are at risk. Any device that is connected to the internet is vulnerable: smartphones, tablets, and even IoT devices like your smart doorbell or smart speakers.

All of these devices are vulnerable to malware that can easily infect your system, delete, alter files, steal sensitive information, or use your computer’s resources (for example, for cryptocurrencies mining). When just one of these devices is compromised, then your whole system is at risk and can be wiped instantly.

Simply put, yes, you need proper antivirus software if you use any devices that are connected to the internet all the time.

Does Antivirus Software Slow Down Your Computer?

It’s a very common misconception that your antivirus can slow down your computer as much as 50%. The answer is, no, it won’t be that significant of a slowdown.

It’s true, however, that your antivirus, as a program that is always running at the background of your system will have at least some effect on the overall speed of your system.

It’s important to note that if there’s any significant slowdown on your computer and/or your system, in most cases your antivirus software is not the culprit (at least, not the only culprit). Let us dig deeper into this issue and look at the potential causes.

The Role of Your Antivirus in System Slowdown

All kinds of software always use your system’s resources and especially your CPU power. Your antivirus can perform automatic scans continuously in the background, and so CPU usage can be constant.

A scan can happen when you download something from the internet, install a new program, or visit a malicious website. Each of these scans will cause the antivirus software to access its malware information—whether on your system or via the cloud—database to compare the network drive with a massive list of malware behaviors and signatures.

This process alone uses your CPU’s resources, which can be very significant or very insignificant depending on your CPU’s power.

In the past, the malware information database is usually stored on the user’s computer and would need to be updated regularly, and so the process above will 100% rely on your CPU’s resources. Nowadays, however most premium antivirus software put this database on the cloud and so this process will rely on the provider’s server rather than our CPUs.

As a result of these, most reliable antivirus software solutions today won’t slow down your computer significantly. So, if your computer or device experiences a significant slowdown when your antivirus is running, it’s very unlikely that the antivirus is the sole culprit. Let us discuss some of the potential factors that might slow down your computer.

Potential Causes for System Slow Down

Here are some of the common issues that might cause significant system slowdown when the antivirus is running:

  • Storage-related issues: Check if there’s an issue with your hard drive, SSD, and even memory. A full hard drive is a very common issue for computer slowdown. Also, old hard drives and memory might malfunction or have physical issues that reduce their overall performance. Check your storage devices for these potential issues that might cause speed problems.
  • Undetected malware: Malware is actually the number one cause of computer slowdown. Even if your antivirus is on, new and certain malware programs can slip undetected. This is why having a proper antivirus solution is actually very important in ensuring your system’s overall performance.
  • Other software: Check for other programs and apps that run in your system’s background. You can check for these apps by checking your Activity Monitor (Mac) or Task Manager (Windows). Also, you might have forgotten to close certain programs that you previously use (i.e. you forgot to turn off a video game app).
  • OS-related issues: Your OS might be corrupted, or it might not have been updated in a while. OS updates often contain patches to boost the OS’s overall performance and so can speed up your system

Ensuring Optimal Speed While Using Your Antivirus

Below are some quick, actionable tips you can use to ensure your system is optimal, speed-wise:

  • Clean up your drives regularly: pretty obvious, but often overlooked. Check for old files, unused apps, accidental downloads, and more. There are also various software(affiliate opportunities for data cleanup software) that can help in this clean-up process.
  • Make sure your OS and apps are up to date: check for updates regularly and set up automated updates (or invest in an update management software). All kinds of apps that are not updated might cause significant performance issues.
  • Scan at night: you can set up your antivirus to perform the automated scan when the computer/device is not in use.

If you’ve properly assessed all the above factors and followed these tips but you’re still having performance issues, then it’s probably time to switch to a faster antivirus. Below we will discuss important factors to consider when choosing a fast antivirus.

Factors To Look For in a Fast Antivirus

Here are some of the important features to ensure your antivirus is causing as minimal slowdown as possible: 

  • Cloud Malware Database and Processing: As established above, many antivirus solutions now put the malware information database on the cloud to avoid using too much of the user’s CPU resources. With cloud processing, the burden is placed on the antivirus company’s servers and the user’s internet bandwidth (but not the system’s resources). However, there’s a minor downside here that the antivirus can’t work (at least, fully) without the internet.
  • Low RAM Usage: This information should be fairly easy to find on the antivirus companies’ websites before you decide on a purchase. Look for antivirus software that doesn’t take up a lot of RAM usage when it’s running. In general, the bigger the software size (in computer space) is, the more RAM space it will also consume.
  • Behavioral-Based over Signature-Based Detection: Some premium antivirus companies have now moved towards a behavior-based detection approach to decrease CPU usage, but also to be able to detect zero-day attacks. They are usually more expensive than your traditional antivirus service with malware signature-based detection.
  • Faster Installation: Not always, but installation time is another common sign of the antivirus’s overall speed. If the antivirus program takes hours or even the whole day to fully install (assuming your internet speed is decent enough), then it’s a strong sign that it will also run slow on your system. This is because if the software takes that long to install, it usually means it has a complex infrastructure with a lot of internal elements to handle. The more internal processes, the slower the antivirus software will be.

Recommended Antivirus For Your Business

In this section, we will review three of the best antivirus solutions for your Small Office Home Office (SOHO) businesses.

Note: Keep in mind that we mainly review these solutions while considering a small business (SOHO) setting. If you are looking for an antivirus for personal usage or for bigger enterprises, some factors might not apply 100%.

#1. Norton by Symantec


Norton by Symantec is one of the oldest antivirus companies, having been around for almost 3 decades (exactly 3 decades in 2021). Chances are, even if you’ve never used Norton products before, you should be familiar with the brand.

Norton now offers not only antivirus software, but also secure VPN service, cloud backup, password management tool, and other features in an all-in-one suite called Norton 360. There are five different plans available that might suit your small office home office (SOHO) business needs: 

  • Norton 360 standard: only for 1 device, so this is the plan if you are currently a one-man company. You (obviously) get access to the multi-layered antivirus software with behavioral protection, unlimited VPN access, and 10 GB online backup space.
  • Norton 360 Deluxe: 5 devices, add parental controls (so is a good option for your family), online backup space increased to 50GB
  • Norton 360 with Lifelock Select: LifeLock is an identity theft protection company that is now acquired by Symantec, and so now is a part of the Norton 360 suite. 100 GB backup space, 5 devices. You get credit monitoring, credit alerts, stolen wallet protection, and up to $1 million in compensation as a part of the LifeLock plan.
  • Norton 360 with Lifelock Advantage: up to 10 devices, and 250 GB online backup space.
  • Norton 360 with Lifelock Ultimate Plus: unlimited devices and 500GB backup space. Better LifeLock features and increased compensation for identity theft losses.

Pricing:

Does antivirus software stop hackers?

There’s also a Norton Small Business Plan for $99.99/year for 5 devices that offers centralized management. However, you don’t get a VPN, backup spaces, and other extra features of the 360 plans. So in our opinion, it is not worth the money.

Pros and Cons:

Pros: 

  • Great antivirus protection with AI machine learning scans and behavioral protection
  • Flexible pricing starts from as cheap as $39.99/year for one device and $49.99/year for 5 devices, great for SOHO businesses
  • Easy to use and intuitive dashboard
  • Multi-platform supports
  • Excellent 24/7 professional and responsive customer service via phone
  • Great backup and restore features.
  • Great LifeLock features

Cons: 

  • Doesn’t feature a secure web-browsing feature
  • Relatively heavy and can slow down your computer a bit

#2. McAfee

McAfee is even older than Norton and has been around since 1987. McAfee offers a wide range of plans and packages, which can be quite confusing for those not familiar with antivirus software and its terms.

For small SOHO businesses, we feel that there are the Total Protection plans (comparable to Norton 360 plans) are the best choices. There are three tiers of Total Protection plans but they only differ on the number of devices/users and share the same features:

  • The Antivirus
  • Secure VPN (only available when you’re enrolled in auto-renewal contract)
  • Performance optimization features like blocking autoplay on videos
  • Password manager
  • Safe web browsing feature
  • McAfee Shredder to delete sensitive files completely
  • Data encryption feature
  • Identity theft protection

Pricing:

Does antivirus software stop hackers?

Similar to Norton, McAfee also offers a centralized-management antivirus solution for small businesses called McAfee Small Business Securities that costs $94.99 for the first year for 5 desktops (up to 25 devices), unlimited for iOS and Android devices.

Since it only includes the antivirus and not the extra features of the Total Protection plans, we feel it’s not worth it. It is, however, your only viable choice if you need more than 10 devices.

Pros and Cons:

  • Great affordable price for the first year, especially if you need up to 10 devices protected
  • Easy to use dashboard with great customizability
  • Fast and responsive McAfee 24/7 support
  • Very reliable with up-to-date malware information database
  • Integration with other McAfee solutions
  • Multi-platform supports

Cons:

  • No behavioral protection
  • Can sometimes cause system to slow down

#3. ESET

ESET Antivirus and Internet Security for Mac computers and laptops - Save 25%

ESET is probably the least widely known antivirus software on the list, however, the company has been around since 1987. Although not as well-known as Norton or McAfee, ESET offers pretty flexible antivirus plans that are based on the number of devices:

Since the Endpoint Security Solution is much more expensive than the Smart Security Premium plans, the main difference here lies in the behavioral detection feature, which is only available in the Endpoint plans.

Pricing:

Does antivirus software stop hackers?

Pros and Cons:

Pros: 

  • A very powerful set of features, all of its features from ransomware shield to password protection are top-notch
  • Powerful behavioral detection feature
  • In-product sandbox can test unverified programs that may contain malicious codes even when they are not included in the database yet
  • Multi-layer defense from detecting malware pre-execution, during execution, and post-execution

Cons: 

  • Expensive compared to Norton and McAfee plans
  • Initial start-up is long and may slow-down your computer
  • A steep learning curve, not very intuitive

Does Antivirus Software Stop Hackers – Our Verdict

Does your small office home office (SOHO) business need antivirus software? The answer is a strict yes. I your devices are connected to the internet, then an antivirus software is a must as a first layer of defense against hacking attempts and other cyber-security threats.

Out of the three products we reviewed above, based on our tests ESET for Business offers the most powerful protection features out of the three, but the plans are relatively expensive compared to the other two.

McAfee offered the most affordable plans, especially for the first year, but doesn’t offer as many features as Norton and ESET. So it’s the choice if you are mainly looking for affordability.

Norton’s Small Business Plan, on the other hand, is somewhere in between both in the terms of costs and features and has the best, most intuitive interface.

So, as you can see, each of them offers its own advantages and disadvantages and you should choose one based on your number of devices, overall needs, and budget.

Final words…

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and it’s answered the question, “Does antivirus software stop hackers?”. If it did and you want to check out some other great articles, here is a short list we think you might be interested in:

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