We all get that malware and cyber attacks are serious news, but with most phones, PCs, tablets and laptops coming with built-in protection, is it really worth paying for additional layers of security?
Almost any device you buy - be it macOS, iOS, Android or Windows - has some defence against malware, although the safeguards vary considerably in quality.
You can have some systems with full-scale antivirus protection, but most have a fairly generic amount of protection that's well worth boosting.
Today Best10Index looks into what's worth paying for - and where you're better advised to save your cash.
Let's start by clarifying that antivirus software and VPN packages are two different things.
Yes, you can buy a plan that includes both, but there are also standalone providers, so they aren't necessarily always part and parcel of the same software.
Hackers can hide malware in pretty much anything, from a programme file to a graphic, a downloaded movie, to an MP3, so without virus protection, you're always at risk.
If we had to choose, we'd say go for antivirus over a VPN, although you'll want both in the best-case scenario.
Scammers use stacks of techniques to slip in under the radar, stealing passwords, identity details and even banking logins.
Your selected antivirus programme might adopt a range of features to safeguard you:
The key to all this is to recognise that two antivirus packages aren't necessarily equal and will have different capacities and protection levels.
If you've got a basic antivirus that came free with your device, it'll probably only protect you from malware it knows about, not anything new that comes your way.
In short, yes, even if you've got a brand new laptop or computer, you're putting yourself in a dangerous place if you start browsing without any decent security.
There are countless reasons hackers will target seemingly unimportant users, for example, to replicate your online identity.
We pay for everything online and use our phones for limitless transactions, so antivirus is like an insurance policy to safeguard everything you do over the internet, whether that's paying a bill or renewing your driving licence.
Free antivirus protection is a great add-on product, but unfortunately, it's never safe to assume that it's sufficient.
Now, most respected tech retailers won't offer free antivirus that isn't worth having at all, but if they have a paid-for version, it's almost always going to be superior.
Our advice would be to visit the Best10Index reviews and see how your antivirus stacks up.
If it's not got a high enough specification to defend all of your online activities, it's probably a good idea to invest a small amount in more robust protection.
It's difficult to say conclusively whether you should go for a higher-cost upgrade, or stick with a basic level antivirus, particularly if the cost differential is big.
Free antivirus is, of course, more basic.
Still, some providers don't necessarily provide more aggressive malware detection - sometimes, the upgraded accounts just have add-ons like a password manager or file shredding feature.
Every Windows device has some form of in-built virus protection, a standard part of the software offering since right back in 1993 when the brand launched Microsoft Antivirus for DOS.
That early incarnation was a whisper of the power you get with a modern alternative and could detect about 1,200 viruses from a database, with updates manually installed.
If you buy a Windows device today, it'll come with Defender, which is a lot more impressive but still with a few gaps and cracks in the shield.
As freebie antiviruses go, Defender isn't bad and provides antivirus protection along with things like a firewall.
The issue is that there are some caveats, and Defender isn't the best in class for phishing protection, as an example.
You'll also find that Defender only works in Microsoft browsers, so it's redundant if you're using Chrome or Firefox.
For our money, yes, a serious antivirus with a VPN is a great option if you spend time online, and particularly if you work from home.
Defender is created as a backup security solution.
It automatically goes into dormant mode if you install any other third-party antivirus software, so it's clear that it isn't all singing.
However, Microsoft Defender is constantly updated, so it's now got a bit more bite to its bark, with things like ransomware protection, so it's not useless - but limited.
One of the challenges for everyday internet users is that new threats, viruses and scam techniques arise literally daily.
Although database malware detection is valuable, it can't possibly keep pace.
Internet security is vital if you don't want your passwords or bank account details stolen.
It becomes even more crucial if you're not a tech wizard since you might not necessarily know intuitively when a file looks dodgy.
Premium internet security is also highly advisable for families, with features such as parental controls to keep kids safe.
There's a slight glitch in that if you decide to buy a great antivirus and already have a programme running (third party or inbuilt), it'll probably send your device a little loopy.
Yes, we'd say that the most secure option is to choose a separate antivirus with the features and tools you need, but if you're using anything other than Windows, you should deactivate or switch off the other programme.
Two antiviruses trying to battle alongside each other can suck out your battery life, create false alerts, generate programme conflicts and ultimately make you more exposed than you'd be with one or the other.
VPNs are necessary for any online user who wants to protect their identity.
They are often used in multinational workplaces where it becomes tricky to communicate if some collaborative or meeting platforms don't recognise your location.
There are thousands of VPN providers, so while we can't make a quick-fire recommendation, we’d suggest visiting the Best10Index ratings to pick a service that is up there with the best and conforms to your expectations and requirements.
Unsure how to choose the best VPN services providers? Here's a cheat sheet of the key things to prioritise:
You can normally connect up to five devices through one VPN, but there are options for busier households.
A VPN will only protect your identity - it won't also serve to keep you defended from viruses.
If you have a VPN, you'll almost certainly need an antivirus programme to run alongside it.
We talked earlier about Windows Defender, and Apple has likewise been upgrading operating systems that address most of the common online security threats.
Most iOS devices are very well protected, but the drawback is that there is limited capacity to run a malware antivirus scan.
The secret sauce in Mac devices is the T2 chip, which you'll find in the newer models, which generates an ominous-sounding Secure Enclave.
That simply means that part of the device memory is reserved exclusively for macOS processes, storing encrypted data and touch ID, among other high-security information.
Although Apple does a sterling job of making it very difficult, malware does exist that can penetrate macOS defences - and Macs are just as susceptible to infections.
Hackers might have to be a bit smarter about how they approach the puzzle, but you still need to give real thought to your antivirus protection.
Therefore, yes, antivirus still has a part to play, and although you can use Apple as your go-to, there are plenty of software options that run smoothly on Macs.
A lot depends on the age of your Mac and what security versions it has inbuilt.
Older devices certainly should have antivirus, and newer hardware still benefits from protection since, as we've seen, malware continues to evolve.
Even with good antivirus safeguards, Mac devices don't have any VPN, so you'll need to download this service separately.
Let's clarify - some iPhone models have a free in-built VPN (shoot over to your Settings icon, and it's buried in there).
The issue is that you can't just switch it on; you need to create a VPN profile manually and select a VPN server to connect with.
From there, you'll have to pay a subscription, download an app and so on.
So, in conclusion, your best bet is to use the best VPN In the UK that best suits your budget and browsing habits since it won't cost any more than using those integrated functions.
As for antivirus, yes, we'd strongly recommend you check out the range of apps compatible with smartphones to ensure everything you do on your mobile is just as well protected.