Josh Brunty had spent more than a decade in cybersecurity — first as a digital forensics analyst for the West Virginia State Police, then as someone who taught the subject at Marshall University — when he discovered his father, Butch, was still paying money every year for third-party antivirus protection on his home computer.
“He was talking about renewing his antivirus. I said, ‘Are you literally paying for antivirus?’” Brunty said. “I don’t know how he ended up doing it, but he ended up getting connected to Norton, spending, like, $60 a year.”
Brunty’s father, like a lot of other people, hadn’t gotten the message that has become intuitive to many people who work in cybersecurity: There’s just no longer any reason for regular people to pay for antivirus software for their personal devices.
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Antivirus software still centers on its original use: looking for and mitigating software viruses. Because modern computer systems already do that, many programs now offer additional protections, like monitoring the dark web to see whether someone posts customers’ personal information, which experts find to be of little use.
Hackers today are most likely to target regular people by trying to take over their personal accounts for email, social media or financial websites. It’s easier to stop them when you know that their goal is “to impersonate you and take over an account you want to keep private,” said Harlo Holmes, the chief information security officer at the Freedom of the Press Foundation.