Security

Why Paying for Security Software Can Make Sense

Not securing your computer at all isn’t an option: there are too many potential security threats, from losing personal data to bringing down your entire office infrastructure. Many of our readers favour free solutions, but in security there’s also a good case to be made for paying.

Picture by Teresa

We’ve argued before that paying for software can make sense, and that’s a view we’ll stick to even while continuing to hunt down the best free options. Yes, it’s great when free software can do everything you need. But it’s also important to recognise when paying will get you better results. And we’ll start with the most obvious one of all: so you can get your life back from your incompetent relatives and friends.

1. Broader range of support options

The most common argument against paying for security software is “I’m a clued-up individual; I don’t click on dodgy sites and I know what to look for. A basic free scanner will work fine for me.” That in itself is a questionable presumption, but even if it’s true, it’s clearly not the case with all the other people who will come running to you for tech support every time they have a problem. If they get paid software, you can direct them towards the support resources for those companies when things go wrong. That’s part of what they paid for. Merely saving yourself some of this hassle is, in itself, a powerful argument for ensuring those in your circle who are less-tech-savvy get a paid package instead. You’ll spend less time dealing with their issues. That might well prove cheaper than the drinks you need after fixing a particularly nasty infection.

2. Options beyond simple malware detection

Tech security is not just a matter of having a basic firewall and signature-based detection on your desktop machine. You also need protection for browsing activities, email scanning, and the ability to detect viruses and malware based on behaviour rather than just signature modelling. Those options are increasingly covered in commercial security software, but are rarely an option in the cheapest packages.

3. Need to cover multiple devices

As we move towards using our phones more than our computers, we also shift the area of risk. Android has been the main focus of activity — both malicious and preventative — to date, but with Android now more popular than iPhone, the risk is very real. Android security packages offer other bonuses such as backup and “find my phone” options, but keeping malicious apps away remains a useful strategy.

4. Security is a serious matter

Security requires more than just the right software; it also requires the right attitude. The right attitude isn’t “Something cheap and simple will be good enough”. To use a car analogy: there will always be some people who can safely maintain and manage their own cars. But there will always be many more who rely on the services of an expert. You can choose which category you belong in, but taking on the same role for others is risky and time-consuming.

Lifehacker 101 is a weekly feature covering fundamental techniques that Lifehacker constantly refers to, explaining them step-by-step. Hey, we were all newbies once, right?