Let’s play a game: guess what’s even more important than antivirus protection but is also something that consumers often forget to look for in a cybersecurity program?
If you guessed an internet security suite, you win! But what’s the difference between virus protection and internet security protection and why do you need both to ensure the safety of your computer?
First, What’s an Antivirus?
As the name suggests, antiviruses specifically scan for viruses. Viruses are the original cybersecurity threat and were around long before newer threats such as ransomware were even thought of.
Viruses have some distinctive features that distinguish them from other threats. Just like an actual medical virus, they can self-propagate and spread among users. They also typically require a host program with a human interface in order to work.
Before Gmail, people used programs like Microsoft Outlook to download their email (warning: you may even live with a tech dinosaur who still does). If you downloaded an attachment that was looked like a harmless Excel spreadsheet, you may have been downloading a simple macro virus—the kind that antiviruses protect against.
But what if that same attachment could infect your local network without a program? It may have been a worm, and to protect against that, you need comprehensive internet protection.
What About “Internet Security Threats?”
‘Internet security threats’ usually refers to a much broader class of threats to computers and the people operating them. This category includes more modern, sophisticated attack vectors including phishing, zero-day attacks, ransomware, boot sector malware, and rootkits (programs that embed deeply in the operating system and give other programs root-level administrative permissions).
Internet security packages typically protect the user while online, connecting within a web browser. The majority of computer users now spend the vast majority of their computer time online, so it’s vital to have this extra layer of protection.
What Are These “Extra” Features?
So antivirus software essentially targets viruses but internet security suites protect against a larger pool of threats. They often feature preventative in-browser protection which stops online threats before they download.
Every internet security suite needs an antivirus engine but not every antivirus package will necessarily have internet security features. While internet security packages bring lots of important additional protection to users’ computers, an antivirus engine remains an essential first line of defense against threats to the operating system. But what are these additional features?
- Firewall management is a vital internet security feature. Windows and MacOS both have built-in firewalls, but many internet security programs include an additional firewall manager that is more powerful and easier to use than the pre-installed versions.
- Automated port scanners make sure that only required IP ports are open, and are another protection feature helps block hackers who are trying to get into your system via these ports.
Keylogger blockers detect and remove programs intended to gather and transmit users’ keystrokes (containing usernames, passwords, and personally identifiable information).
- Microphone and webcam blockers prevent the unauthorized remote activation of these devices by online spies.
- Parental control tools. These programs are increasingly included in internet security suites. They can be used to block entire categories of websites and enforce limits as to when users can access the internet (and for how long).
Do You Need Both?
Many years ago, internet security packages were thought of as top-level software packages for high-value clients such as the business sector. Things have changed rather dramatically since then. Now, other types of threats have overtaken traditional viruses in number and harm. Users should make sure that any security software they buy includes both an antivirus and internet security component.