What is the best free antivirus software for 2022? Consumers need to protect themselves more than ever by using the best antivirus software in 2022. The world of cybersecurity continues to evolve. Hackers are continuing to develop new ways to plant ransomware, infiltrate networks, steal intellectual property, and in general cause as much damage as they are able. Defense tools like endpoint protection products and EDR solutions are at the forefront of protecting data and computer systems. This article will discuss the features that come with modern antivirus software, why they are needed, and provide a comprehensive list ranking different vendors with a link to their free download page. The scope of this article discusses antivirus for Windows 10 and Windows 11 based operating systems.
Modern antivirus software come with different features, and it is important to detail those before discussing each individual software.
Signature Based Detection
Protects against every known virus definition out in the wild. Each time a new virus is discovered, it gets documented and fingerprinted. This way, software vendors know to automatically block files or parts of a file that match the fingerprint.
Heuristic Based Detection
Heuristic based detection protects against unknown, or zero-day viruses; a virus that has never been documented but displays behavior of a typical virus. For example, if a PDF document has been infected with new malware, it might try to do something like open port or connection to a foreign IP address. This behavior would be abnormal, and the antivirus software would block the action, quarantine the file, and let you know what happened.
URL Blockers are also known as DNS-Layer protection. It provides the ability to protect users from clicking on links that lead to websites that are known to host malware and infect computers or that would attempt to phish an unsuspecting user to steal their username and password.
A firewall protects and logs connections to ensure that all connections are legitimate. A firewall on an antivirus software is a client-side firewall, meaning that it only protects the machine it is running on. It automatically blocks hackers from known intrusion attempts and verifies that any incoming connection was requested by you (e.g. you open a browser and type in google.com; google.com returns its website).
This capability allows you to monitor for sensitive information leaving your computer, such as a credit card number, social security number, or any other type of data you deem sensitive. Once this data is entered into the software, it is encrypted. Then, if sensitive data such as a credit card number tries to leave your computer it will automatically be blocked. You can allow Trusted Websites to be an exclusion to this rule, such as your credit card company or an online store you frequent.
This provides the ability for an antivirus solution to quarantine and remove already existing malware.
This provides a single vault of passwords which automatically change when expired. It has one password to control them all and makes password management challenges a thing of the past.
Enabling this feature will allow your antivirus solution to download files first to a cloud repository, where it will open or “detonate” a file to ensure that it is indeed not malware and safe. If it is malware, the file will not be downloaded to your computer, and you will be notified.
One last area that needs to be covered is that of real-world testing. In order to be considered a best antivirus software in 2022, they need to be listed on either AV-Comparatives or AV-TEST. All of the software suites listed below have been reviewed by AV-Comparatives and AV-TEST, two organizations that are continually providing independent comparative tests for antivirus software. These two organizations run the latest malware variants against these solutions to test how good they actually are. For a full breakdown of individual software vendors, I would recommend exploring their websites here:
Windows Security is the security software that comes with Windows 10/11 Home Edition. In the past, Windows has had a bad reputation when it came to security. However, Windows Security has proven itself to be a mature product, and before looking at other vendor solutions it would be good to take a look at the features it offers.
Windows Security comes with these seven features:
- Virus and Threat Protection
- Account protection
- Firewall and network protection
- App & browser control
- Device security
- Device performance and health
- Family Options
Windows Security Modules
The Virus and Threat Protection module provides what you would expect: real-time protection, the ability to scan for a virus, and check for updates. It also provides the ability to restore from OneDrive, if enabled and in use.
The Account Protection module provides the ability to log in via Windows Hello (using your face), PIN, or fingerprint. It also provides the ability to use your Microsoft account as a way to manage all of your devices, which can be especially helpful for parental control.
The Firewall and network protection module protects you from threats coming in from the network you are connected to. It’s a very basic firewall with the ability to allow applications through, but does not have some of the advanced features that other client-side firewalls provide.
The App & browser control module is a higher-powered ad and spyware blocker. It works with the Microsoft Edge browser to detect and block potentially unwanted programs (spyware).
The Device security module provides hardware-level security, such as Secure Boot which prevents malware from loading when you start your computer. It also provides Core Isolation, which has the ability to prevent malware from inserting malicious code into high-security processes.
The Device performance and health module provides a health report for storage capacity issues, battery issues, apps issues, and Windows Time issues.
The Family Options module provides parental control settings around web usage (Microsoft Edge), how much screen time to allow, reports of online activity, and reviewing purchase history.
The list below provides an overview of different software vendors and the capabilities of their free version which would complement what Windows Security provides.
Antivirus Solutions and Features
What is the best free antivirus of 2022?
Answering the question, what is the best free antivirus software of 2022 is determined by what best fits your need. If you don’t need VPN, then you should look to other solutions which may provide features that are more attractive. If you need to protect sensitive data on your PC, then there is really only one choice. Because Windows already provides basic antivirus and firewall services, other software vendors may be more attractive, such as those providing URL blocking, data protection, password management and VPN. The vendors listed here may have more features not listed in the above diagram, and a thorough review should be had before installing your next antivirus software.