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Malware protection software, also known as anti-malware, safeguards computer systems and devices against malware, which is harmful code deployed to inflict damage, steal sensitive information and cause other related cyberthreats. This article presents a compilation of 10 malware protection solutions, with the features that make them valuable for malware protection.
What is malware protection software?
Malware protection software is a program that protects computer systems against malware, which includes viruses, spyware and adware, among other harmful programs. It does this by delivering regular scans, swift action on infected files and preemptive protection to prevent malware from entering the system and causing damage. In other words, the malware protection software can provide security by scanning the system for vulnerabilities, isolating the infected files, and preempting attacks.
“Malware” is short for malicious software. It is any type of software that covertly, or otherwise infiltrates a computer system with the purpose of stealing sensitive information or causing damage. Cybercriminals often use malware as a first step in perpetrating a larger and more sophisticated attack within an organization’s technology network. Trojans, viruses, worms, ransomware and other threats are all considered malware.
Good malware protection software is essential for proper protection against malware and cyberattacks. The software contains tools that ensure comprehensive system security and maintenance, as well as the protection of private data that may be stored on local devices or transmitted by a network.
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The market for malware protection is growing. Future Market Insights estimates the market will reach $9.6 billion globally in 2022 after a 13.3% CAGR from 2016 to 2021, and projects that rate will slow to 11.6% over the coming decade.
Effective malware protection software protects your computer and data on several levels. A good one should have multiple facilities including real-time monitoring, detection, forensic analysis and removal. These tools should also block any suspicious files and disrupt dubious installations that attempt to change settings on your system.
The software usually features a robust database of blacklisted URLs and IP addresses, which are updated in real-time for active blocking. The compiled information enables the malware protection software to stop threats from hostile sources that have already been identified.
The malware protection software recognizes and warns the user against both well-known and possible malware threats, based on signs that an element of code is attempting to conceal itself on a computer. It also detects and warns against suspicious websites, some of which are designed for phishing.
Moreover, any file without a familiar URL or IP is flagged as requiring further inspection. Then a heuristic analysis is carried out, based on the file’s behavior. On such close inspection, the software would determine whether to prevent a file from executing its intended action. If it attempts a strange or downright harmful action, this level of malware protection will classify the file as malicious.
Another method used by malware protection software is sandboxing. The software isolates a file when there is not enough information about it to provide a verdict for categorization. The file will be allowed to operate in the safety of the sandbox while being closely monitored for suspicious behavior. The sandbox is a secure space because it prevents any malicious activity from affecting the system. So, if the unknown file turns out to be malware, it can be eliminated without compromising the system.
A good malware protection software checks any newly acquired file or program to ensure that it is malware-free, periodically scans the system to detect and thwart any malware that might have gained access, and is regularly updated to identify the latest threats.
Key features to look for in 2022
Signature-based detection is one of the primary features of anti-malware. It compares the virus code collected by the scanner to the massive collection of viruses within the cloud database. When a file is downloaded, the code in that file is compared to the malware database. If the signature of the downloaded file matches a file in the database, it is blocked from running on the system. Malware files can be mutated to deceive signature-based scanning, necessitating the need for other layers of protection, discussed subsequently.
Heuristics-based scanners analyze code as well, but they especially monitor characteristics and behaviors to identify signatures that are similar to known malware types. This allows them to detect malware that signature-based scanners miss. Malware protection software that contains this feature will be able to identify malicious content by observing its behavior. This examination also reveals the intent and destination of the file. If it is flagged as malicious, it gets removed.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence
Machine learning tools detect malware files based on their behavior — if a file acts similarly to the millions of malware files the AI-based scanner is trained on, it will block those files.
A sandbox is an isolated space in a computer that permits file execution safely within its borders without risking infection of the computer system. Browser applications, for example, often contain a sandbox to isolate potentially dangerous material from the internet. Any file quarantined in a sandbox can’t affect system files outside the sandbox, and the harmful effects of malware are erased once the sandbox is shut off.
A firewall is important for malware protection software because it insulates the network of a computer system from malware that may travel through it and infect other connected devices. It also filters incoming and outgoing traffic and secures the network from vulnerabilities that hackers may exploit to breach the system. Therefore, “next-generation” firewalls, also known as unified threat management systems (UTMs) often include antivirus and other anti-malware capabilities as part of a bundled offering.
Other characteristic trends available in efficient malware protection software include:
- Real-time device monitoring.
- Scheduled automated scans.
- Deep threat scanning.
- Regular updates.
- Secure file eraser.
- Web-based threat detection.
- Password managers.
- Virtual private networks (VPNs).
- System cleanup tools.
- Encrypted storage.
- Breach monitoring.
Also read: Palo Alto Networks debuts cloud-native firewall service for AWS
10 top malware protection solutions for 2022
While there are more than 100 malware protection software applications on the market today, those listed below have received positive reviews from multiple sources, including Gartner, McKinsey and PCMag, among other technological research and consulting firms and software review sites.
Norton utilizes signature-based scanning, advanced heuristics and machine learning to recognize malware on computer networks and devices. It provides significant internet security protection as well, with a scanner that detects a wide range of malware. Its features also include:
- Secure firewall.
- Antiphishing web shield.
- Password manager.
- Webcam protection.
- VPN (with unlimited data).
- Dark web monitoring.
An outstanding feature of Bitdefender is that it is extremely lightweight. It also uses signature-based scanning, heuristics and machine learning, and provides many beneficial internet security features, such as the following:
- Web security.
- System optimizer.
- Password manager.
- Webcam protection.
- Data breach monitoring.
Intego is commended for its macOS malware protection software for 2022, but it also supports Windows and Android devices. Intego provides top-notch internet security for Macs, offering both on-demand scanning and real-time protection against millions of malware types. More of its features include:
- Mac optimization and cleaning tools.
- Advanced Mac backup options.
- Network security options.
- Advanced firewall.
- Wi-Fi network monitor, among others.
TotalAV has a very high malware detection rate, with fast and secure real-time protection and a strong scanner. Features that combine to make it a powerful tool for preventing and fighting malware include:
- Excellent performance and optimization tools.
- Password vault.
- Safe browsing.
- Strong scanning engine.
- Powerful malware removal.
Malwarebytes is an effective anti-malware solution with deep scans, daily updates, and preventative tools like real-time scanning and specific protection against ransomware. Additional features include:
- Warning tools.
- Centralized threat reporting.
- Prevention tools.
- Centralized management.
- Flexible push-install options.
- Asset management to deploy solutions, track, manage and monitor endpoints.
Vipre is a rich malware scan-and-remove software that provides antivirus software and internet security solutions for spyware, ransomware and malware detection and removal for both personal and professional use. It features the following as well:
- Malware protection.
- Ease of installation and use.
- Impressive dark web scanner.
- Fully customizable firewall.
- Minimal system impact.
McAfee is known for its malware removal and protection in the cybersecurity space. It offers robust optimization tools, a password manager, encrypted storage, real-time protection and an ad-blocking web extension. Features and benefits of McAfee include:
- Optimization tools.
- Well-rounded protection.
- Ease of use.
- Broad malware removal.
Avira‘s anti-malware protects the identity and personal data of its users against malware, providing comprehensive, real-time security. Among its features are the following:
- Real-time monitoring.
- Secure data storage.
- Vulnerability scanning.
- Audit management.
- Risk alerts.
Trend Micro is a malware protection software package that packs good antispam and ransomware blocking features. Some of its features and benefits are these:
- Advanced artificial intelligence (AI) learning.
- Simple, yet powerful menus and interface.
- Very impressive malware protection.
- Folder Shield anti-ransomware.
- Pay Guard.
- Email scam protection.
Avast is a popular malware protection solution. It offers industry-grade security with automatic updates and is easy to use. Its features include:
- Data shredder.
- Intelligent antivirus.
- Home network security.
- SafeZone browser.
- Smart scan.
- Secure DNS.
- Browser cleanup.
- Automatic software updater.
In the face of the ever-present threat of cyberattacks and destructive computer viruses, competent malware protection software is a necessity. This list provides some leading products on the market today.
Next read: Malware and best practices for malware removal
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