What Happens If You Don’t Use Antivirus Protection?
While cybersecurity experts previously urged users to download security programs on their computers, most now agree that antivirus software on its own isn’t enough to protect you from the range of cyber threats circulating in 2023.
Every day, the FBI receives over 2,100 cybercrime-related complaints — but only a tiny percentage of those are related to viruses [*].
The truth is that modern hackers aren’t interested in damaging your devices — they want your data.
Data breaches, phishing, hacking, and digital extortion are much greater threats to the average American, and require protective measures beyond traditional antivirus software.
In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about buying antivirus software in 2023 and explain how you can make the right choice to protect your devices, data, and identity from scammers.
Do You Need Antivirus Software in 2023? What To Know
Antivirus software helps protect computers, networks, and internet-connected devices against a range of malware attacks. Hackers exploit devices and online accounts with trojans, adware, spyware, and ransomware — all of which can compromise your data privacy and expose you to hacking and identity fraud.
But while viruses have been a threat for decades, not every device — or user — is at the same risk level.
The vast majority of new malware attacks target devices that run on the Microsoft Windows operating system (for desktop computers) or on Android devices.
By contrast, MacOS and iOS devices have a closed app ecosystem and built-in antivirus security features that shield against most attacks. That’s not to say your iPhone is invincible — but it’s much more difficult to get a virus on your iPhone.
Operating systems (like Windows 10) and web browsers (like Chrome) have come a long way in recent years. However, most cyberattacks don’t stem from malware threats. Instead, they occur due to data breaches and social engineering scams.
This evolving cybersecurity landscape means that the best antivirus software alone isn’t enough. You need a service that defends against malware and also provides identity theft protection.
The Better Option: Why You Should Choose All-In-One Digital Security
Most experts agree that viruses are no longer the problem they once were. Studies from the Independent IT-Security Institute show that [*]:
Malware attacks have fallen by around 80% since 2021.
The shift in how cybercriminals target people means that stand-alone antivirus apps don't provide you with sufficient protection. You need modern services that safeguard you from a broader range of cyber threats (and offer remediation support and insurance coverage in case you become a victim).
For example, Aura’s comprehensive security solution includes:
- A full digital security suite for all of your devices. Aura provides specialized safety tools, including powerful antivirus software, a virtual private network (VPN), and a secure password manager.
- Award-winning identity monitoring and protection. Aura monitors your most sensitive information, including your full name, address, Social Security number (SSN), passport details, and credit card numbers.
- Three-bureau credit monitoring with the industry’s fastest fraud alerts. Aura monitors your credit with all three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). By notifying you with near real-time alerts about possible identity theft or credit fraud, Aura limits potential financial losses as well as damages to your credit score.
- Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered scam call and text protection. Phone scammers use phishing schemes to steal your money or personal information. Aura keeps your calls and messages safe with a variety of advanced features, including AI call screening and spam text blocking.
- 24/7 support from U.S.-based White Glove Fraud Resolution Specialists. Aura provides round-the-clock assistance from dedicated experts who specialize in resolving identity theft and fraud issues.
- $1 million in identity theft insurance. Every Aura plan includes a $1,000,000 insurance policy for each adult plan member, covering eligible losses due to identity theft.
Antivirus Features: How Antivirus Protects Your Devices
Antivirus programs work by detecting and deleting malicious code to prevent malware and hackers from damaging your device, stealing your data, or corrupting your computer network.
Modern antivirus products run in the background, giving you 24/7 protection against phishing attacks, phone and text scams, and data breaches.
Here are 11 features you should look for when considering antivirus software:
- Virus scans. Antivirus apps and software should provide scheduled, on-demand, or “always on” scanning options to keep you and your family safe from viruses.
- Behavior-based detection. Modern antivirus uses behavior-based detection to identify and stop previously unknown threats.
- Safe Browsing tools. These features provide real-time protection while you surf the internet — highlighting harmful websites and blocking malicious content.
- Virus quarantine (and removal). Detected threats are quarantined to prevent them from causing extensive harm to your devices and data.
- Secure network tools. Antivirus software often includes features to secure your internet connection and protect your data from anyone who is eavesdropping. For example, a VPN encrypts your IP address to hide your location and activity from hackers.
- Password managers. Many of the best antivirus providers come with password managers that make it easy to generate, store, and manage unique, strong passwords for all of your online accounts.
- Dark Web monitoring. If scammers buy your stolen details after a data breach, they could create synthetic identities or apply for loans in your name. Keeping an eye on the Dark Web helps you detect when any of your personal data is at risk.
- Identity theft protection. More advanced security options offer features like identity monitoring, credit monitoring, and fraud alerts to help you stop con artists from using your name for fraudulent purposes.
- Parental controls. These tools help parents manage and monitor their children's online activities, ensuring that kids adhere to healthy screen time limits and can only access age-appropriate content.
- Encrypted storage for your sensitive data. Some antivirus software provides secure, encrypted storage for sensitive files, such as your SSN or home title deeds.
- Online support. It's essential to choose an antivirus program that comes with easy-to-access online support so that you can get answers to urgent questions.
Is It Worth It To Pay for Antivirus Protection? Pros and Cons Of 3 Options
When you want to protect your devices and data, you have three options:
- Rely on your device’s built-in security tools
- Use free antivirus software
- Sign up for an all-in-one digital security provider
There are pros and cons to all three options:
1. Your device’s built-in antivirus software
Most modern devices come pre-installed with built-in protection (such as Windows Defender). This native software offers a basic line of defense against common threats. However, these products lack advanced features, leaving you vulnerable to more sophisticated malware.
The bottom line: Built in Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows security tools are only getting better — but they can’t protect you from threats beyond viruses targeting your device.
2. Free antivirus software
There are many free antivirus software products in the marketplace. While it can be tempting to use free tools, they come with limitations and risks. For example, some hackers disguise malware as free antivirus software or device “clean up” tools to trick you into infecting your computer or phone.
The bottom line: Free antivirus software is tempting — but it can open you up to even more risks of hacking than if you rely on the built-in tools that come with your device.
3. All-in-one digital security
With an all-in-one digital security provider, you can access sophisticated features that protect your digital identity. These products shield your devices from malware — and, more importantly, they safeguard your online accounts, financial data, and personal information from scammers.
The bottom line: An all-in-one service offers the best defense against the real threats that the average person faces from cybercriminals and hackers — but it comes at a cost. If you can afford the monthly fee, many of these services provide extensive protection against scams, fraud, and identity theft.
Antivirus FAQ: Everything Else To Know Before Buying
To help you understand whether or not you need antivirus software, here are some of the most common questions customers ask.
Do you need antivirus if you’re using Windows Defender?
Not always. Microsoft Defender is a native antivirus program that comes with Windows 10 and Windows 11. It offers real-time protection against viruses and malware, scans your system for threats through behavior analysis, and integrates with the Windows Firewall to safeguard your device from network-based threats.
However, Microsoft Defender can’t protect you against fraud, identity theft, hacking, and other modern threats.
Do you need an antivirus on Android?
Yes. Google Play Protect is Android's built-in security protection tool. It includes malware scanning, and warns you against harmful apps in the Google Play App Store (and shields you from dangerous sites while browsing the web on platforms like Chrome and Firefox).
However, Android’s protection only goes so far, meaning you should use antivirus software if you download apps or regularly connect to public Wi-Fi.
Do you need antivirus on MacOS?
In rare situations. Apple devices are less susceptible than Windows PCs due to Apple’s closed app ecosystem and Unix-based architecture. All Apple devices include XProtect — a built-in malware scanner — that provides significant cybersecurity protection.
Working quietly in the background, XProtect requires no configuration. It also regularly (and automatically) updates, meaning you remain well-protected most of the time.
But despite the myth, Macs are not entirely immune to viruses. Macs are still regularly targeted with malware attacks. Although you are more secure when using an Apple device (such as an iPad), it’s still worth investing in a robust, all-in-one antivirus provider to ensure that you remain consistently protected and safe online.
Do you need antivirus on iPhones?
No. There’s no such thing as antivirus software for iPhones, as Apple doesn’t allow third-party apps to scan for malware or suspicious programs on its devices.
If you encounter any company claiming to sell an "iPhone antivirus," it's actually a digital security bundle that includes a VPN, Safe Browsing tools, and a password manager.
However, none of these tools make your iPhone risk-free. Smartphone users — including iPhone owners — are still susceptible to text message scams and email phishing attacks.
💡 Related: Can Someone Hack My iPhone? How To Tell & What To Do →
How To Protect Yourself From Viruses, Hacking, and Scams
While antivirus can help protect you against malware and other viruses, it’s not enough to keep you safe from the real (and worst) dangers of hacking and identity theft.
- Use strong and unique passwords. You can reduce the chance of account takeovers by creating complex, unique login credentials for every account that combine uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Store your credentials in a password manager. A secure password manager stores your credentials in one place, so you can use complex passwords without forgetting them. Aura's password manager gives you access to your passwords with a single click and warns you if they've been compromised in a data breach.
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on all accounts. Requiring a second verification step in the login process greatly reduces the risk of unauthorized account access.
- Regularly update your apps and operating system. Enabling automatic updates ensures that your apps and operating system are patched against the latest known vulnerabilities.
- Use a Privacy Assistant to block pop-ups. This feature protects your online privacy from invasive ads and other malware attacks.
- Learn the warning signs of a phishing scam. You can reduce your chances of falling for scams when you know how to recognize the telltale signs of phishing emails or messages, fake website links, and requests for personal information.
- Protect your phone with an AI-powered scam call and text blocker. It’s easier to safeguard your smartphone from scam calls and texts by using an AI-powered blocker, which filters unwanted messages.
- Only download apps and files from known websites. It’s best to stick to reputable and well-known websites and app stores. This reduces the risk of getting malicious software infections on your devices.
- Use a VPN when on public Wi-Fi. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks (such as in hotels, airports, and restaurants), a VPN encrypts your internet traffic. This step ensures that your data remains secure and private, even in potentially risky public Wi-Fi environments.
- Delete your contact details from data broker lists. By removing your information from data broker websites, you can stop scammers from getting access to your data. Aura can automatically remove your personal information from many data broker sites.
- Don’t save your credit card details with online stores. It's convenient to select the "Save Card" or "Remember Payment Info" option during the checkout process — but this puts you at risk if the site (or your account) is hacked. Instead, opt for manual entry for every transaction.
- Create regular backups. It's a good habit to save important data and files periodically. You can stay safe and have peace of mind by knowing you can recover everything in the event of data loss or cyberattacks.
Viruses Are Evolving — Aura Is Your Antidote
The basic virus protections provided by free or native tools are no longer enough to keep you safe online — making it more critical than ever to choose an all-in-one antivirus and online security solution like Aura.
With Aura, you get advanced digital safety tools for all of your devices, plus award-winning identity theft protection, three-bureau credit monitoring with the industry’s fastest fraud alerts, 24/7 U.S.-based support, and up to $5 million in identity theft insurance.