The short answer is yes. According to a study conducted by folks at BitDefender, your computer may still be infected even if you have a free or a paid antivirus software installed on it. If you run an older operating system like Windows XP or Windows 2000 your chances of having a breach in security are even greater.

Online Antivirus

In the last 10 years the number of malicious software grew from sporadic infections to more than 145 million known threats, with a rate of 40,000 new viruses per day. If you suspect that your computer may be infected with a virus, you can always try a fast and online solution to scan your files. Remember that if you browse the Internet while having a poor security software installed on your computer your chances of getting a virus are greatly increased.

Choose the best free antivirus
According to Bogdan Botezatu, a Bitdefender researcher that used the information collected by Bitdefender QuickScan and 60-Second Virus Scanner, 11.6% of computers that apparently are secured with an antivirus are infected with a virus. The same study concluded that most of these infected devices are running old operating systems or they are “protected” by a free antivirus. According to Mashable.com and my own experience, the best free antiviruses are AVG Antivirus, Comodo, Panda, ZoneAlarm and Avast. If you do use other antivirus solution, you may be at risk. I’m not saying these 5 AVs will get you bullet-proof protected, but they will reduce your chance of getting a bug in your files.

Upgrade to the new Windows
The same results of the study showed that the number of infected computers on each platform is proportional with the market share of the platform. Windows 7 owns the largest market share of all Windows operating system (53.8%) followed by Windows XP (36.2%) and Windows Vista (8.1%). The users who work on Windows 8 are the most protected (4.59%) and it seems only reasonable, since Microsoft had a long time to develop its new operating system. If you have Windows 7 installed on your device, you need to update or upgrade now in order to be safe because 11,47% of all infected computers were running this OS.

Which country has the most infected computers?
Remember that the study refers to computers who already have a security solution installed. The QuickScan data revealed that most infected computers are found in India, US and France.

Ask for a second opinion
I’m going to share a quick story. I had a version Kaspersky installed on my computer and while I was browsing the Internet my computer froze. A strange pop-up appeared on my desktop showing that my computer is infected and I need virus scan. It was not a Kaspersky pop-up, but rather something else. Even more, my Kaspersky icon was gone from the taskbar. So, I used my second laptop to search for a fix and I found out that this pop-up was actually a malware that was not recognized by my paid antivirus. Luckily, I managed to remove it by using a second antivirus, the Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware. Ever since, I have both programs installed and I never got a similar problem. My advice is to use a second antivirus/malware removal as a backup plan in case your main antivirus fails.

Other Advices
Even if you do have an antivirus installed, you may still get infected. Here are some quick advices to avoid unpleasant events:

  • never click on links received from unknown people (via mail, chat or any means)
  • if you need to use someone else’s USB Stick, be sure to scan it before using it
  • separate the administrator account and your user account. This way, when a program will try to access sensible files of your operating system, you will be asked. Even more, if you do get infected, you can always delete the user and create a new one, but you may keep your install safe
  • keep your operating system and your antivirus updated

Conclusion
You are not safe and there are many ways to put your sensitive information at risk. Based on my own experience and on the study conducted by folks at BitDefender I can conclude that even if you have an antivirus installed on your computer you may still get infected. This article contains enough hints to help you avoid that situation, starting with choosing a better free antivirus, having a second malware removal tool and changing your computer usage behaviors.

What’s your favorite free antivirus?

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