Is Free Antivirus Software Really Enough?

It depends. There are many factors to consider. Do you spend a lot of time on the internet every week? What type of websites do you visit? Free antivirus software is a perfect level of protection for some while it’s a risky choice for others.

Only a very small percentage of the U.S. population truly understands the level of security they need. I’ll show you how you can evaluate your specific security needs using a simple, 3-step calculation.

But before I do, I want to address those of you that don’t have it in their budget for a paid antivirus. A free antivirus software from a trusted company will always be better than using nothing at all. Just be aware that you may be more vulnerable to attacks than those that use a paid service. This is simply because it makes hackers’ lives easier. They can break through the security on your computer or smartphone much easier than someone who uses more advanced security. You can always combat this weakness by staying more alert and being very careful about the types of sites you visit.

So now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me show you a simple way to calculate your security risk. It’s a scoring system developed to give people clarity about their level of exposure to online threats.

Is using free antivirus software enough protection for you? Calculate your risk score by summing up the points from each step.

Step 1: How many hours do you spend on the internet? (Maximum 2 points)
  1. 3 hours or less per week – 0 points
  2. 4-10 hour per week – 1 point
  3. 11 or more hours per week – 2 points
Step 2: Who is allowed access to your desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet? Add up all that apply. (Maximum 10 points)
  1. Just me – 0 points
  2. My significant other – 1 point
  3. My non-tech savvy friend or family member – 2 points
  4. My children – 2 points
  5. Strangers or acquaintances – 5 points
Step 3: Are you visiting websites that may spy without permissions? (Maximum 4 points)

Particularly unsafe websites include those that offer free software downloads, music lyrics, story sharing, free games, and other sites that attract teens and young adults.

  1. Never – 0 points
  2. Sometimes – 2 point
  3. Most of the Time – 4 points
Now use your total to determine your level of risk:
  • Low Risk 0-3 points – Low Risk
  • Medium Risk 4-8 points – Medium Risk
  • High Risk 9-16 points – High Risk

The higher the score you have, the more likely you will encounter threats. Potential attacks include unauthorized access to your personal files and folders, access to your online banking account, and remote spying through your smartphone or laptop camera. If you have low risk, you can likely be adequately protected with a free antivirus product. For medium or high risk, a paid antivirus product is strongly recommended. If you’re interested in getting antivirus protection, check out our top picks for 2017.

You are now light years ahead of the majority of Americans in terms of understanding your level of online security. As your security needs change, you’ll want to be sure you don’t become an easy target for hackers. Review your security needs about once a year and make any needed adjustments. No matter what your individual security risks are, this will give you an incredible edge.