Myth-busting Antivirus Software Assumptions

The number of new viruses grows every day. In fact, McAfee registers an average of 1.1 million new malicious programs and potentially unwanted apps (PUA) each day, which contributes to the millions and millions already in existence. While there is no way to know when or how cyberattacks will occur, it’s clear that antivirus software is one of the best ways to ensure you, and your devices, are safe. 

Despite its proven strengths, some long-standing myths question the effectiveness of antivirus. To set the record straight, we’ve debunked five of the most common antivirus software myths, so you can rest assured that you are safely navigating the evolving cyber landscape. 

Myth 1: Antivirus software slows down your device 

We expect a lot from our devices—faster performance every time the latest model is released. As a result, many are reluctant to install apps or software that may jeopardize device performance, including antivirus software. 

Many believe that antivirus software will slow down your devices. However, contrary to popular belief, quality antivirus software can improve device performance by using advanced optimizations. It’s this simple: antivirus software conducts regular system-wide scans to identify and prevent viruses and improve performance without compromising efficacy. 

To run these scans, antivirus software requires system resources, which is where this myth originates. If you download or operate more than one antivirus program or download the wrong version for your system, then yes, your device will slow to a crawl. That is why it is essential to install one high-quality antivirus software that meets all your devices’ system requirements. Additionally, best-in-class antivirus software can be set to run during specific hours to avoid delays during the busiest times of your day. 

Myth 2: Antivirus software only protects against a few viruses 

The number of malware strains and potentially unwanted applications (PUA) increases every year. It is understandable why people might think that antivirus software cannot protect against them all. 

However, antivirus software can provide extensive protection against the majority of malicious programs. It does so in two ways: 

  1. It protects you from existing threats based on an extensive list of known threats, which is updated regularly (a good reason to set your software to update automatically rather than manually). 
  2. It protects you from entirely new threats with behavioral detection and machine learning to detect, isolate, and eliminate zero-day digital threats (brand new threats that haven’t been seen before). This approach integrates deep learning algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) to emulate human-like reasoning and accurately detect threats. In addition, behavioral heuristic-based detection finds new viruses by assessing known malicious behavior, such as abnormal application demands and instructions.  

Taken together, a known list of threats paired with the unique capabilities of machine learning, data science, and AI for advanced threat detection enable antivirus software to protect against a wide range of existing and evolving threats. 

Myth 3: Independent third-party test results are useless 

Can you imagine grading your own driving test? You could omit the dreaded three-point turn and pass with flying colors, but the result wouldn’t be as accurate as that of an unbiased evaluator. This same concept applies to evaluating the efficacy of computer security.  

It’s easy for a company to set up a test environment where they highlight all the excellent capabilities of their antivirus software and gloss over its shortcomings. It’s equally as easy for a company to commission a third-party to conduct a custom test painting the company in a good light. However, the results will not be as comprehensive or accurate as those from an independent third-party. Additionally, they also will not provide a comparative analysis with other company offerings to help users draw their own conclusions. 

Independent third-party test results offer a more thorough evaluation of antivirus software. They also do a better job at evaluating security features. Furthermore, ISO-certified independent third parties lend transparency and credibility to the techniques used and ensure that evaluations align with industry standards. 

Myth 4: Apple products can’t get viruses 

There is a common belief that Apple products are protected against viruses because cybercriminals often target Windows and Android operating systems. However, Apple devices are just as vulnerable to viruses as any other computer or smartphone. Regardless of your device or operating system—macOS, iOS, Windows, or Android—if it connects to a network, it’s susceptible to viruses. 

Windows and Android have long been the dominant operating systems for computers and smartphones. That’s why macOS and iOS have, up until recently, been the lesser focus for cybercriminals. The problem is that cybercriminals want to spread their viruses to the platforms with the largest customer base which just so happens to be Windows and Android. As Apple products continue to grow in popularity, cybercriminals will continue coming out with more viruses specifically targeting Macs, iPhones, and other iOS devices. 

Myth 5: You are 100% protected if you have antivirus software 

Antivirus software is not a guarantee of protection against all viruses. Some malware can and will slip through. This is where antivirus software’s ability to detect and remove malware comes in. Ours comes with a Virus Protection Pledge, which provides a 100% guarantee we’ll remove viruses on your devices, or we’ll give you your money back, all as part of your automatically renewable subscription. 

However, viruses and malware are just one form of attack that hackers and bad actors will wage on their victims. They’ll also make attempts at identity theft or likewise try to invade your privacy—with the intent of stealing passwords, account information, and personal information, which could drain your debit cards, damage your credit, or otherwise impersonate you for their financial gain. 

In this way, antivirus is just one form of protection. To truly stay safe as possible online, you need online protection software that looks after your identity and privacy as well. McAfee+ Ultimate offers our most comprehensive coverage, with  

Fact vs. Fiction: Know what antivirus software can do for you 

It is necessary to bust common myths about antivirus software to protect yourself and your family from cyberthreats. By educating yourself and selecting a best-in-class antivirus software that’s further bolstered by identity and privacy protection, you will be well on your way to implementing an effective protection strategy. 

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