Today, the purposes of antimalware and antivirus software have changed. Also, viruses and other malware have changed a lot too. These two always dance together and evolve together. The solution and the problem are always in a symbiotic relationship e.g. if the solution evolves the virus has to evolve and vice versa. It is questionable whether both of these cybersecurity tools are needed to protect your computer and devices from infections and attacks.

Most of this protection software has multiple features built-in in 2021, and as such is no longer a one-hit solution. Today it is more about marketing than what the actual software can do because most modern protection software has all the features you need. This means that you don't require multiple security suites running at the same time, at least not necessarily. This was more of a thing back in the day when software was not as streamlined or multi-capable.

Back in the earlier days of the 90s and 2000s, viruses were very one-dimensional and their code was nowhere near as complex as today. It was also much easier to detect viruses. As such, earlier viruses could not spread or multiply like today's sophisticated viruses, and so the solution for them was usually a simple program that found the file and deleted it.

Also, the potential attack surfaces a virus or other malware could attack were very limited. There were no smart devices back then, let alone tablets or smartphones. But, the topic does warrant a closer look for those of us interested in learning about securing their devices as optimally as possible. Cybersecurity knowledge is key for any computer or device user today, because of how severe the consequences of hacking can be. For example, the threat of ransomware, which is a very real and scary threat. It is known that it is difficult to protect against ransomware, but this is also where some antivirus software shines over general-purpose anti-malware.

What is Antivirus Software?

Antivirus software, which is also abbreviated as AV, is software that is designed to eradicate malicious files such as executables by cross-referencing the search with an existing database of viruses. This software in the classical sense is used to detect, flag, and then either quarantine or delete the infected files. A good AV software has to scan the entire computer system, especially to look for hidden viruses in deep system folders and root folders.

Today, AV software is not sought out as it once was, because of a few factors like how well software is designed today. Modern operating systems like Windows or macOS already come with a host of security features out-of-the-box. Such features can include proprietary protection software like Windows Defender, or in the case of macOS there is a disk encryption option called Filevault and a background service known as XProtect (among many others.) Apple's XProtect runs invisibly in the background of the operating system.

The two operating systems are very different. Apple's products are much more closed off in terms of how they are offered and developed, whereas Microsoft, Google and Android products are much more open and greater in number and also far more populated as far as the number of apps available for them goes.

What is Antimalware Software?

Antimalware software is much like antivirus software, in that they tend to scan the same sectors for infections and can then detect, flag, quarantine or eradicate. However, antivirus programs tend to scan for more targeted infections while antimalware suites look for a wider range of potentially unwanted programs or PUPs that are not necessarily viruses. Antivirus also tends to act on scenarios where there is already an infection present, while antimalware tends to scan your internet traffic constantly for suspicious data packets. These can include anything that was downloaded by accident via a popup, small adware, spyware, and malicious extensions, and many more variants. Antimalware is also known for blocking PUPs and suspicious traffic of which it will warn you about as you browse.

Malware can also include toolbars, infected MP3s, backdoors, exploits, and much more. Some of this malware can even stop you from detecting it if you have not updated your malware threat library to the latest version. The malware issue is that there is so much of it around the internet just waiting to land on your computer and give it the flu, so to speak.

Do You Need Both On Your Devices?

Most security experts will agree that the short answer to this is: no. Five years ago? Maybe. Ten years ago, certainly. Let's try for a visual analogy; having both antimalware and antivirus installed is akin to filtering the water you drink twice. Is that really necessary for your health? No. Could it catch some unnecessary particles? Perhaps, but the lack of practicality outweighs the benefits after the first stage of filtering. One word, overkill.

The thing is, as we have said before, operating systems today already come heavily equipped with sufficient protection systems. For one, running both antivirus and antimalware suites will hog your system resources, and may lead to a conflict between different brands of security suites. Another thing is that any additional passively running software can conflict with something in your system unless it is specifically designed for it, which is the case for Windows Defender and Apples' XProtect and File Vault, for example.

If you do feel the need to have peace of mind and run antivirus or antimalware then read on. Most security suite offerings today from; Bitdefender, Malwarebytes, Kaspersky, Avast, AVG, Avira and others are more than enough protection for your macOS or Windows system. No, that's not a typo. Macs are also now vulnerable to targeted attacks so running a quick free scan via Malwarebytes (for example) can only do your system good. At the end of the day, it will not do you any harm.

Sometimes, just using common sense and securing your device by yourself with some simple but often forgotten adjustments is the best way to go. This means using a good password across your machines and never sharing it with anyone. Secondly, never open emails you are unsure about, let alone download anything from them. Most importantly, avoid visiting unsecured websites and platforms where there is copyrighted or illicit content. Such websites are designed to target and infect your machine.