Are Antivirus Programs Effective

Katarina Glamoslija Katarina Glamoslija

Cybersecurity has become crucial to our well-being. With so much sensitive information stored in our devices, the thought of losing it all to malware is pretty terrifying. Using antivirus software might give us peace of mind, but does it guarantee us protection?

If you’re still wondering whether antivirus software is effective, you’re not alone. In fact, the debate has been going on for a while. Some researchers have even pronounced antivirus software dead and unnecessary for years now.

However, it’s not time to throw out your subscription just yet. A high-quality antivirus can keep you safe from all known threats, and even some that haven’t been invented yet. Its benefit is proven, even if some flaws exist.

The Antivirus Is Not Dead… Far From It.

Antivirus programs all work similarly. They combine confirmed malware knowledge with pioneering strategies to prevent infections. The problem is the malware landscape is always changing, so 100% protection isn’t always feasible. Cybercriminals innovate by using unrecognized coding that appears benign to antivirus software.

The claim that antivirus software is no longer effective usually refers to signature-based antivirus. This technology scans for virus signatures and runs them against a continuously updated threat database. If a signature matches a known threat, the software is flagged as malicious and isolated to prevent any damage.

Major antivirus solutions like Norton and Bitdefender have evolved beyond signature-based protection to include advanced techniques for malware detection. Behavior analytics, artificial intelligence, patching automation, and big data analysis are all very capable when it comes to identifying and disarming threats. Antivirus programs now don’t just block Trojans, worms, viruses, and other harmful bugs, but also sophisticated zero-day attacks and ransomware threats.

Can an Antivirus Protect Me Against Malware?

The short answer is yes, an antivirus can protect you from most threats.  No single antivirus solution is 100% effective at detecting and removing malware, but it’s still effective for the most part.

Scanning for known malware has little value when you encounter new, unknown malware, so many antivirus products now have sophisticated features that can detect unseen threats. Major antivirus vendors have been expanding their products and bundling in new features that go beyond basic malware protection, such as encryption and patching automation.

If Antivirus Is Not 100% Effective, Why Bother?

Just because anti-virus software won’t give you 100% protection, doesn’t mean that it’s not an essential security precaution.

We know that antivirus software isn’t 100% effective, and it has a lot to do with the pace at which new malware threats are being created. The payoffs are significant, so malware creators are becoming increasingly organized and professional. Modern malware is extremely sophisticated, unpredictable, and built to evade detection.

According to the Infosecurity Magazine, 360 thousand new variants of malware are released into the world every single day, malware is released and new threats are being created non-stop. It takes time for these new threats to be discovered by security experts.

However, newer technologies have sped up the process of countering new threats considerably. Antivirus solutions that rely on new technology will block the majority of threats, which is better than not having any protection at all.

Not All Antivirus Solutions Are Equally Effective

Keep in mind that not all antivirus software is created equal. Antivirus solutions vary greatly in terms of quality of protection, impact on system performance, and false positive rates. Make sure to carefully review your antivirus to ensure you’re getting all the protection you need.

My top antivirus recommendations in 2023 include:

Norton. This well-known security firm offers a 100% protection guarantee on its site. When tested with over 1,000 types of malware, Norton managed to catch every single one, including various zero-day malware attacks. With over 25 years of experience, it’s easy to see why Norton rates as one of the most secure antivirus products around.

Avira. Avira is a German security software that offers many antivirus products. Its Prime package excelled in all the crucial elements, with perfect accuracy against almost 1,000 known malware types. Avira is also very easy to use, which is why it’s a great option for beginners.

Bitdefender. When tested against more than 1,000 known malware samples and a wide range zero-day infections, Bitdefender managed to flag 100% of the problems. Although this doesn’t guarantee indefinite flawless protection, it provides an incredibly high chance of staying safe online.

Many other top antivirus products exist. While some offer high levels of protection, others excel in speed and usability. Finding your best option can take some trial and error, but most premium providers offer trial periods and money-back guarantees so you can experiment.

Tips to Increase Security

While antivirus apps aren’t perfect, they still offer a lot. You can incorporate security practices that will increase the protection even further, such as the following tactics that will enhance your online privacy:

Smart Clicking. At the end of the day, the best protection against viruses is you. Most infections require you to take action before they infiltrate your device. Common avenues include phishing emails, infected ads, piggybacking on software, torrents, or unauthorized downloads. Stick to trusted websites and sources, and never open or download files from unknown senders.

Manual Scans. Most antivirus software will have automatic scans, but these may not be the most thorough option. Full system scans can be launched manually on a regular basis and will look deeper into your files to optimize protection.

Additional Software. Lots of antivirus add-ons exist. Similarly, certain security companies excel in different areas. It’s perfectly acceptable to double up on removal and detection tools in order to ensure the highest quality results.

Keeping your apps updated is key. Cybercriminals look for vulnerabilities in software to exploit, and updates often fix these gaps, preventing potential infections. Neglecting updates can expose you to significant risk.


So is antivirus software worth your time and money? In the world of cybersecurity, nothing is 100% foolproof, and an antivirus is no exception. Does it help? Absolutely. But there will always be newer, more advanced malware that can breach even the best of defenses.

Think of your antivirus as only one aspect of your security rather than the sole method of protection. Following general security recommendations will minimize your risk, but antivirus software is not foolproof. Installing a top-rated antivirus, being cautious about the websites you visit, not opening questionable attachments, and avoiding clicking on suspicious links can help you and your network avoid many threats.

The bottom line is no single security measure, including installing an antivirus, safeguards against every possible threat. The best you can do is to make yourself a hard target with smart online behavior and the right antivirus solution. By investing in solid antivirus software, you will be much more secure than those who don’t.

About the Author
Katarina Glamoslija
Katarina Glamoslija
Head Content Manager

About the Author

Katarina Glamoslija is Head Content Manager at SafetyDetectives. She has nearly a decade of experience researching, testing, and reviewing cybersecurity products and investigating best practices for online safety and data protection. Before joining SafetyDetectives, she was Content Manager and Chief Editor of several review websites, including one about antiviruses and another about VPNs. She also worked as a freelance writer and editor for tech, medical, and business publications. When she’s not a “Safety Detective”, she can be found traveling (and writing about it on her small travel blog), playing with her cats, and binge-watching crime dramas.