Windows 10 differentiated itself from its predecessors in a lot of ways. It effectively integrated Cortana and Microsoft Edge into its system. Also, Microsoft also improved on Windows Apps. It provided seamless integration of third-party software.
Windows 10 is also the first Microsoft operating system which aimed to unify desktop, tablet, and mobile experience. It aims to be flexible enough to run on any device. It is much similar to what Ubuntu attempted a few years ago.
However, one of the best selling points of Windows 10 is its security. It boasts an overhaul of the operating systems native security systems. Microsoft has been considered the weakest regarding safety for years. Now, it aims to regain its credibility in security through Windows 10.
In a conference back in 2015, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella promised a better era of security for its customers. “When it comes to privacy, we will ensure your data is private and is under your control," Nadella said. He highlighted the efforts of the company to follow compliance with data management and transparency. "...we will ensure that all your data is secure," he added.
How Protected Am I in Windows 10?
Windows 10 security system revolves around the Windows Defender Security Center application. Windows Defender groups its features into five major functions. You can refer to our article on how secure is Windows 10 for more details.
Virus & Threat Protection
The Virus & threat protection is the flagship antivirus for Windows 10. It functions just like any antivirus application. Additionally, any third-party antivirus can be run in this window as well. Microsoft is making sure that security updates are included in its Patch Tuesday.
Device Performance & Health
Device performance & health provides an overview of your system's current status. It includes Windows updates, drivers, battery, and storage. The Refresh Windows features is an excellent last resort solution for infected machines. This option allows you to remove all applications and start fresh. Your files and some basic Windows settings will remain untouched.
Firewall & Network Protection
The Firewall & network protection is an improvement over its older versions. Network configurations and firewall settings are adjusted in this option as well.
App & Browser Control
App & browser control is Microsoft's attempt to protect users from themselves. Typical infections are results or careless browsing habits. This feature will warn you of any malicious sites, questionable downloads, and any unidentified applications and files.
Lastly, Family options is a feature long awaited in Windows operating systems. The family feature handles security information and settings in one central location. Activity reports of other users and their apps and games are displayed in this window as well.
Is Windows Defender Enough?
Ideally, operating systems should protect itself from potential threats. However, cyber attacks are getting better and better. Native security applications are typically not enough.
Microsoft has long been known as average at best in security applications. Mac OS typically outperforms Windows operating systems. Even Linux variants such as Ubuntu and Mint provide better security than Windows.
Microsoft aims to redeem its name in security through Windows 10. The latest version of the operating system is the most secure. The company also made sure regular security updates are available. They also react quickly to emergency situations such as the WannaCry crisis.
The Laboratory Test Results
In recent laboratory tests, Windows Defender is improving. From the abysmal results in 2015 to be almost at par with current criteria. However, beyond its improvements, different laboratories report mixed results.
AV-Test Institute reported the most favorable results. Windows Defender scored 99% in protection against zero-day malware attacks and 99.7% in detecting threats. It is very close to the industry standard. Testing against security, performance, and usability Windows Defender only scored a passing rate.
SE Labs testing revealed improved but only passable results. Most known security suites gained the highest level of certification at AAA. Windows security system managed to achieve an AA certification.
AV-Comparatives awarded the lowest rating to Windows Defender. On its tests, the security system only scored 98.84%. It is below the average score of most security products results.
Should you ditch Windows Defender altogether? No. For users who browse social media, receives a couple of emails a day and downloads one or two files, Windows Defender is an adequate baseline protection. It integrates well especially if you're using Microsoft applications. It also automatically steps in when your third-party security is not present.
However, there are free security solutions which scored higher than Microsoft. Additionally, virus and malware threats should be handled well by dedicated applications.
What is the Best Free Antivirus for Windows 10?
Avast Free Antivirus
Avast Free Antivirus tops most of the laboratory test results. Its Essential version packs the best features to protect your computer. AV-Test reported very favorable results. It scored 100% on both zero-day attacks and threat detection.
Avast features network security inspector that catches hazards even before it reaches your system. It also contains a password manager which is handy for extra protection. The Essential version is free but sturdy enough for casual users.
AVG Free Antivirus
AVG Free Antivirus is one of the most popular free security application. It is one of the most straightforward antivirus packages to use. Unlike other antivirus systems, it is uncluttered with unnecessary features. However, if you need some of its features, it can easily be accessed in the menu.
Both SE Labs and AV-Test reported top-notched results. All results are within the industry standards. It even scored 100% in real-world live testing. It is one of the faster manual scans. On the other hand, AVG is more resource intensive than the others.
Paid: Bitdefender Antivirus
Bitdefender Antivirus is one of the most user-friendly security applications around. It works right out-of-the-box. It is lightweight and not resource intensive. Bitdefender will run in the background without noticeable effect.
Like the rest of the applications on this list, it scored well in AV-Test results. It scored a clean 100% in both zero-day attacks and detection. One of its downsides is having only one scanning option.
Difference B/W Antivirus and Anti-Malware
If there are antivirus system, is there a need for anti-malware? Why do you need to worry about malware as well? First, we need to know the difference between a virus and malware.
Viruses rose in popularity during the 90's. A virus is a piece of program that can install itself on a system. It rapidly multiplies itself even over a network. Some are distributed over emails as well.
Other viruses can change its signature to avoid detection from antivirus programs. The primary purpose of a virus is to destroy data. Eventually, digital vandalism is not enough for cybercriminals.
Malicious software or malware is an umbrella term for programs that can harm a system. A virus is a type of malware. Virus developers don't earn anything directly from destroying data. Other variants of malware were born out of aggressive monetization of hackers.
An example is an adware which collects browsing habits. Its intrusive method of advertisement disrupts basic operations. More potent derivatives can inflict more damage.
Spywares live on your computer collecting data. It includes sensitive banking and credit card information. Rootkits open your computer to third-party control. One of the most recent version is a ransomware.
It takes hold of systems and blocks and kinds of access. Users will be unable to use the computer and access files and data. Hackers will demand money to release the system from the ransomware.
Why to Use an Anti-Malware?
As malware variants increase, companies producing antiviruses evolved. Companies began offering antivirus and anti-malware in one. Others began developing full security suites with other features.
So, why consider dedicated anti-malware applications? By focusing on anti-malware, developers can hone in on accurate detection and protection. Antivirus software only deal with a subset of malware. Anti-malware is developed to identify existing variants and remove them from your system.
Additionally, some anti-malware applications can even prevent unknown threats from infiltrating your system. More importantly, some updates have anti-ransomware in place to avoid another WannaCry disaster.
Best Anti-Malware for Windows 10
MalwareFox is lightweight but sturdy anti-malware application. It packs a lot of features in a small package. Running MalwareFox scans is not demanding for your computer.
Additionally, its Smart Scan mode can detect any malware infiltration in 5 minutes. You can launch and use other application while an active scan is ongoing.
Developers of MalwareFox understands that users are often the source of threats. It protects your browsing experience. It efficiently removes annoying ads, toolbars, and search bars.
Moreover, MalwareFox can protect your system from threats even before experts identify them. Its Zero-Day Attack Protection analyzes questionable files and blocks them.
Lastly, its Ransomware Protection prevents the most potent attacks. Its active protection prevents ransomware from ever getting on your computer. It is a perfect anti-malware application to go along with your antivirus.
Malwarebytes is one of the most recognizable names in anti-malware. It has one of the most straightforward installs. Also, it runs in Safe Mode which can efficiently remove threats. Malwarebytes also produces one of the best test results.
Furthermore, it efficiently detects and deletes threats such as rootkits and malicious URLs. Updates are regularly available as well. You can schedule scanning for seamless protection.
Emsisoft Anti-Malware is a customizable solution for malware protection. It offers three kinds of scans. Users can choose from Quick Scan, Malware Scan, and Custom Scan. Runtime of average full scan is average at 45 minutes. However, it was able to block potential threats.
Also, test results have also reported favorable performance. Malicious URL blocking handles the real-time protection.
Also Read - Ultimate Windows 10 Security Guide
Windows Defender may be improving as Microsoft updates it. However, it is useful as a baseline protection. That is why you still need a full antivirus application. Third-party security suite performs significantly better than Windows Defender.
Additionally, you should install a robust anti-malware program as well. Malware variants have evolved rapidly throughout the years. Anti-malware applications can protect you from existing risks and anonymous threats. Most have anti-ransomware which adds another layer of protection.