Isn’t it enough that PCs, phones, and tablets today have security built in? The answer depends on your operating system.
If you don’t have a third-party antivirus program installed on your Windows PC, you may have noticed that Microsoft Defender sends you the occasional message. And, hey, Macs don’t get viruses, right? You might not have to spend your hard-earned money on security if you just use the security that is already there.
And maybe not. Most of the time, you should pay for security or use a free service from a third party. Adding security on top of what’s already there can be a good idea or a must-have, depending on the operating system.
In one way or another, Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS all protect against malware. Some people use a full-fledged antivirus to protect themselves. For some, security is so deeply built into the OS that malware has a hard time doing anything. Installing a third-party antivirus can help protect you either way.
Do I Need Antivirus Software if Windows Defender is Already Installed?
Since Microsoft Anti-Virus for DOS came out in 1993, Microsoft has had some kind of built-in anti-virus protection. Symantec bought the main part of that product, and it became the OG Norton Antivirus. And holy cow, was it stupid. At the time it came out, it could find about 1,200 different viruses, and users had to manually install any updates.
Now, we have Microsoft Defender, which is a much more impressive product. Oh, it went through some hard times as it grew up. When independent testing labs started to test Microsoft Defender, they got scores lower than zero on some of the tests. But that was years ago, and this tool’s scores have been getting better and better over time.
It used to be called different things, but now it’s called Microsoft Defender Antivirus. It not only protects against viruses but also takes care of other security features like the Windows Firewall. During our testing, however, we found some major problems.
For example, it did not do well in our hands-on phishing protection test, which uses real fake websites scraped from the web. In any case, it only works in Microsoft browsers to protect against phishing and sites that host malware. Do you like Chrome better? Firefox? Sorry, you don’t get any help.
Microsoft Defender has a feature that stops files in important folders from being changed without permission. This is a type of protection against ransomware. Early on, the Desktop was included, which was annoying because protection kicked in every time an installer tried to put an icon on the desktop. At the moment, this feature keeps the Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, and Favorites folders safe in Windows 10 and Windows 11. Still, it’s not on by default.
So, here’s the deal. The people who make Microsoft Defender seem to think of it more as a backup plan than as a main solution. When you install a third-party antivirus program, Microsoft Defender turns off so it doesn’t get in the way.
If you turn off third-party protection, Defender comes back to life and starts protecting again. Even the best free antivirus tools perform much better in tests and have more features than the worst ones.
Is Android Antivirus Necessary?
If Google finds malware in the Google Play Store, it takes it down right away. The key word here is “removes.” First, the malware shows up in the store. Then, Google gets rid of it as soon as possible, no matter how long this takes. Apple’s App Store has a very strict review process, but Google’s Play Store does not.
Malware does get into the store, and you might download it before Google cleans it up. Also, it’s easy to set up your Android so that you can download apps from places other than the Play Store.
The antivirus software that comes with Android, Google Play Protect, is meant to protect your devices from malware. Independent testing labs have found that it doesn’t do a good job.
Experts at AV-Comparatives tested Google Play Protect along with 10 other antivirus tools for Android. They got thousands of different samples of Android malware and used those to test each antivirus.
To give behavior-based detection a chance, they first let the antivirus scan and get rid of any samples it recognized. Then, they ran any samples that were still left. They also put 500 popular and safe apps on the computer to see if the antivirus would mistakenly label them as dangerous.
All of the samples were caught by Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, G Data, Kaspersky, and Trend Micro Maximum Security. Quite a few people did better than 98%. With 87.9% protection, Play Protect came in last. Google’s entry also had the most false positives.
It had 11 of them, and more than half of them didn’t show anything at all. All of the antivirus products that were tested passed the lab’s test. That is everything but Play Protect.
Does My iPhone Need Antivirus?
Fools learn from their mistakes. Bismarck observed, “The intelligent man learns from others’ mistakes.” Apple’s OS development teams have had decades to make mistakes. Mistakes from past teams helped the iOS team learn what constitutes a secure OS. iOS security improves with each update.
So secure that an antivirus can’t run on iOS. Malwarebytes finds a high surge in macOS malware but says, “On the iOS side, malware exists, but there’s no way to scan for it.” This iOS malware consists largely of nation-state activities, not something the regular user needs to worry about.
Malware coders (or researchers) sometimes have trouble creating iOS malware. Checkm8 offers a partial jailbreak of iPhone 4s to X. Checkm8 requires access to a phone connected to a desktop computer. No Reboot enables malware to survive through an iPhone reboot by tricking the user into thinking the phone rebooted when it didn’t.
If you don’t have a third-party antivirus program installed on your PC, you may have noticed that Microsoft Defender sends you the occasional message. Some people use a full-fledged antivirus to protect themselves. For some, security is so deeply built into the OS that malware has a hard time doing anything.
Microsoft Defender stops files in important folders from being changed without permission. If you turn off third-party protection, Defender comes back to life and starts protecting again.
Independent testing labs have found that Google Play Protect doesn’t do a good job of protecting Android phones from malware. Play Protect offers 87.9% protection, compared to Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, G Data, Kaspersky, and Trend Micro Maximum Security. Checkm8 offers a partial jailbreak of iPhone 4s to X. No Reboot tricks the user into thinking the phone rebooted when it didn’t.