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Why experts say you don’t need antivirus software anymore

Story at a glance

  • Purchasing third-party antivirus software is no longer necessary for average computer users, experts say, because modern operating systems are able to detect and mitigate viruses.
  • An estimated 45 million households still pay for antivirus software, according to a recent survey, and individuals are more likely to do so if they are older.
  • Rather than spend money on antivirus software, computer users should practice better “password hygiene” to protect themselves from hackers.

Third-party antivirus softwares for personal devices are a thing of the past, cybersecurity experts say, with operating systems that update automatically rendering a once-critical technology mostly obsolete.

Antivirus software, sold by vendors like Norton, can go for more than $300 a year. Experts are now advising consumers to keep their money, as modern computer systems already seek out viruses, the primary function of antivirus software.

Some updated antivirus applications now perform more advanced tasks, like monitoring the dark web to ensure a user’s personal information has not been stolen, but cybersecurity experts find those protections to be excessive and not entirely helpful.

“There’s a limit to what that type of service actually provides,” Susan Grant, the director of consumer protection and privacy at the Consumer Federation of America, told NBC News. “They don’t prevent you from becoming an identity theft victim. They can’t prevent your information from ending up on the dark web, and they can’t remove it. They can just alert you.”


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According to a survey by Security.org, an estimated 45 million households pay for antivirus software. People are more likely to pay for antivirus software if they are older, according to the survey, and most have been paying for it for years.

The greatest threats most users face are no longer from viruses, but from hackers which are able to easily adapt to new operating systems.

“When I look at all the personal account compromises I’ve seen over the past three years, I don’t think any of them were caused by malware,” Bob Lord, who overhauled the Democratic National Committee’s cybersecurity strategy for the 2018 and 2020 elections, told NBC. “They happened because the victims had poor password hygiene and didn’t have two-factor authentication on their accounts.”

Hackers mostly target average computer users to break into their personal email, social media or bank accounts. 

Antivirus software is mostly useless against hackers, and users should instead use unique passwords which are difficult for automated programs to guess. Two-factor authentication, which lets users use their phones as another way to verify their identities, is another obstacle for hackers.


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