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Security suites: Choosing the best one for you

Preston Gralla | July 21, 2015
These days, security suites do more than protect you from malware -- they handle phishing, lost mobile devices and a multitude of other tasks.

Firewalls are also generally included, as well as privacy features such as encrypted vaults for storing passwords. Some suites include anti-spam tools and/or parental control features.

A few suites offer tune-up and maintenance tools such as such as a disk optimizer, file cleanup or startup manager.

OS X protection
Gone are the days when the world believed Macs were invulnerable to threats. Now, most security suites include software for protecting Macs as well as Windows systems.

However, anti-malware applications for OS X generally don't include all the bells and whistles you'll find in their Windows counterparts. So you usually won't find the tune-up and performance tools contained in the Windows versions of the suites.

Android protection
The Android apps that come with security suites focus on anti-theft tools, malware scanning and privacy protection.

For anti-theft, they commonly include a way to locate a lost or stolen device, a way to remotely lock the device and a way to remotely wipe your data. Some also let you make your device sound an alarm or other loud noise so that anyone who has stolen it will discard it.

Malware scanning is performed both in real time when software is downloaded or installed, and also during scheduled scans.

As for privacy protection, some Android security apps check your installed apps to see what kinds of permissions they ask for, and warn you about those that could be privacy invaders. Games, for example, may want to access your contacts, read your phone status and identity or use your phone's location services, even though those aren't required for the game to operate.

In many cases, these security apps are available separately from the suites, sometimes for free.

iOS protection
Protection for iOS devices is less common, at least within security suites. Not all suites have iOS components, and of those that do, some offer anti-theft tools such as those found in the Android security apps but don't include malware scanning or privacy protection.

Why do the iOS anti-malware tools tend to be so weak? There's a possibility that Apple discourages or prevents companies from putting out anti-malware apps. Last March, the Apple-centric site MacRumors reported, "Apple appears to be cracking down on 'anti-virus' apps in the iOS App Store, in an effort to prevent customers from believing iOS devices are capable of contracting viruses and malware."

Web protection
Some suites include Web safeguards that integrate with browsers as part of their Windows and/or and OS X modules. These can offer protection against phishing attacks; some scan your Facebook accounts for URLs linking to phishing sites, malicious downloads or known social networking scams. Others include browser-based safety ratings to warn users away from potentially dangerous sites.


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