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What to Consider When Choosing Cyber Security Software

Jacob Parker
Choosing A Cyber Security Software
Good cyber security is an absolute necessity for anyone using the internet in 2024. In today’s world, with the number of global criminal hacking attacks growing by 30% every year, it no longer matters whether you’re online for business or personal reasons, everyone is a target.

What to Consider When Choosing Cyber Security Software

Good cyber security is an absolute necessity for anyone using the internet in 2024. In today’s world, with the number of global criminal hacking attacks growing by 30% every year, it no longer matters whether you’re online for business or personal reasons, everyone is a target. 

Of course, proper cyber security starts with taking sensible precautions such as avoiding suspicious emails, not connecting to unsecured WiFi hotspots, and avoiding easy to guess passwords like “password” or “12345678”. 

But to truly stay secure online, you need assistance from dedicated cyber security software. The difficulty is in knowing how to identify the right service for your needs. In this article, you’ll find a comprehensive list of the factors you need to take into account when deciding between different cyber security software packages: 

1. Work Out What Features You Require

The cyber security field is extremely broad, so it’s best to begin your search by thinking about the way you use the internet and other technology, and what that means about the cyber threats you’re most likely to face. Here are the most popular categories of security software products:

  • Anti-malware and antivirus - Works by scanning your computer and isolating and deleting any malicious software. Some antivirus programs may even roll back changes a virus has made. While the early versions of antivirus software were designed just for viruses, modern packages will find and remove all manner of implanted cyber-attack software including ransomware, trojan horses, keyloggers, adware, and spyware.
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN) - A VPN encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through a faraway server, normally located in a different country. Using one will normally result in a slightly slower internet connection, but you’ll gain some important privacy benefits. With a VPN, it’s much harder for ISPs or dodgy WiFi hotspots to snoop on your web activity, and most VPN companies promise not to store any record of the sites you visit.
  • Identity Protection Tools - One of the most common serious cybercrimes is identity theft. Unfortunately, no cyber security software can guarantee this will never happen to you, as your details could be leaked from a variety of sources such as your bank or an online retailer. However, with an identity protection service, you’ll get notified if your details are put up for sale on the dark web, or if someone tries to take out an unauthorized loan in your name. 
  • Shields and Firewalls - While antivirus software will scan your files for malicious code that’s already embedded on your computer, a cyber security shield will prevent malware from reaching your machine in the first place. Shield programs do this by closely monitoring your network activity and blocking malicious IP addresses and dangerous sites from communicating with you. 
  • Password Managers - Setting complex alphanumeric passwords is an important security practice for anyone who wants to stay safe online. The only problem is that most people need to access dozens of accounts frequently, making it virtually impossible to remember all your login credentials. Password managers simplify things by encrypting your login keys and syncing them between multiple devices. Most password management tools can also be used to generate new keys and to alert you if weak and easy to guess passwords are detected.  

It may well be the case that a single piece of software won’t be enough for your needs. Fortunately, companies such as iolo and Pango produce cyber security bundles containing multiple standalone products. If you feel like you need a VPN and a password manager to stay safe online, a bundle is probably the way to go. 

2. Take Online Reviews Into Account

Most cyber security manufacturers offer free trials or unpaid versions of their software. If such an option is available for a product you’re considering, experiment with it. By doing so, you’ll find out whether the platform runs well on your system and if you find the interface easy to use.

However, you shouldn’t rely solely on your own experiences when choosing cyber security software. Especially in the case of antivirus and anti-malware platforms, the only way to tell if a product works well is to read expert reviews. Independent labs such as AV-Test put each new piece of antivirus technology through its paces by seeing whether it successfully identifies known and unknown malware programs as a threat to your system.

Real-world conditions are, of course, likely to differ from the lab environments in which antivirus products are tested, but these reviews are still valuable indicators of whether a piece of software does the job it’s supposed to. If you want to keep your PC, Mac, or mobile device free from harmful ransomware and trojans, don’t invest in any product with a low virus identification hit-rate. 

3. Do You Need Cyber Security For a Business or at Home? 

There are major differences between consumer and business-oriented cyber security products, so don’t make the mistake of signing up for the wrong one. With a business security solution, you’ll normally end up investing more cash as the cost of a cyberattack will be higher. On average, the damage to a business caused by a successful hack is now estimated at $3.9 million

And, if you are looking for a way to protect your business from digital risks, make sure you differentiate between small-business and enterprise-level cyber security solutions. Any corporation that works with large volumes of customer data or sensitive health-related information will require custom-made data storage systems as well as enterprise cyber security software.

4. Don’t Forget About Price

In the early days of cyber security, typically you only had to buy a one-off license for an antivirus product. Most businesses have since moved on to subscription pricing models, so costs can really add up if you sign up for a platform that exceeds your budget. 

Prices also tend to vary wildly between different cyber security products. Some antivirus companies, like Malwarebytes, offer fully functional malware detection tools for free. Meanwhile, prices for high-end products like Norton start close to $50 per year. It’s a different story for password managers, where standard industry practice is to offer a free but heavily restricted version of any software. 

5. Check the Number of Devices Covered by One License 

Another key consideration to take into account is the number of devices a piece of cyber security software can be installed on. This varies greatly from company to company with some, like iolo, allowing you to install their software on an unlimited number of devices. 

Just as important as the number of devices a product can be installed on is multi-platform compatibility. For example, if you want to stay safe on your Mac and Android phone, there’s no point in purchasing an antivirus product that only works on PC.

Verdict: Don’t Rush Into a Purchase

Before choosing cyber security software, there’s a great deal to consider. When deciding about whether or not to commit to a purchase of a product, analyze its price, research its core functions, and search the web for independent reviews of its effectiveness. 

Jacob Parker
Jacob Parker is a financial and technology writer for Top10.com. With a background in climate science, he's deeply interested in the intersection of fintech and sustainability and has a passion for impact investing and ESG research.