Digital Security Guide

Avoid These 3 Antivirus Like the Plague

Can an antivirus make your device less secure? If it’s the wrong antivirus, absolutely.

Written By: Team | Published: March 9, 2023

We spend a lot of time explaining which kinds of security products you should invest in. We’ve got a list of the best VPNs and the best antivirus. So it may seem a little odd to find us making a list of antivirus software you should avoid. Here’s the way we see it, though: If we can help you understand what makes a bad antivirus, you should have no trouble picking out the good ones.

Without further ado, then, we present three antivirus you should avoid at all cost. And, just to drive the point home, we also offer a brief description of what you should be looking for when you’re trying to find the right antivirus.

Three Antivirus to Avoid

It would be nice if there was just one sort of antivirus to avoid. It turns out, though, that bad antivirus software comes in many different flavors. Here’s three of the worst we’ve come across so far.

PC Matic: When Outside-the-Box Thinking Goes Wrong

We love those security industry Cinderella stories. You know how it goes: Some small company comes up with an entirely new way to do things, revolutionizes how we protect ourselves, and slays all the Goliaths. This isn’t one of those stories. You have to give PC Matic credit for trying something new. When what seems like a good idea goes wrong, though, it’s better if you just go back to the drawing board rather than trying to run with it anyway.

Here’s the concept: Instead of basing your antivirus on a blacklist of malware, base it on a whitelist of approved software. Normally, antivirus programs scan your system, looking for any malware the program might have on its list of naughty software. The better and more complete its list is, the more likely it is to catch viruses and other nasties. Of course, there is a downside: if a new piece of malware isn’t on the blacklist, the antivirus misses it, and you wind up infected. So, PCMatic thought, let’s guarantee no malware can get by us. To do that they reversed the equation. When PCMatic is running, no software gets onto your device unless it’s on an approved whitelist of known functional software.

Can you guess the problem? In the company’s defense, it stops 100 percent of malware from infecting your devices. It’s just that it also stops a healthy percentage of perfectly fine software from getting onto your device as well, and that can be more than a little frustrating. Of course, you can always add software to the whitelist manually. But then, if you’re going to make decisions about which software is safe and which isn’t, what do you need an antivirus for?

Find out more about how antivirus software scans your device, and learn about better options for catching the worst malware.

Webroot AntiVirus: Faster Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Better

Webroot App
Webroot App

Initially, we were impressed with Webroot AntiVirus. Just read our Webroot review. We set it up on our MacBook and ran our first scan, and boy, was it fast. The whole thing took just over 22 minutes. It got even better. The program let us run scans anytime we wanted, but it also scanned our laptop every hour on the hour. Best of all, none of those scans seemed to slow our computer down at all.

It didn’t take long to figure out why Webroot was so efficient at scanning for malware. Turns out, it wasn’t catching everything. We tested it on five separate viruses. It caught one. That’s not great. Its rating from AV Labs was troubling as well. It caught 98.9 percent of all widespread malware, which sounds good until you realize that the industry average is more than 99 percent. Worse, when it faced more recent malware, so-called zero-day attacks, its percentage dropped to just 66.5 percent. Either its list of malware isn’t sophisticated enough, or its behavior-based scanning processes aren’t quite robust enough. One way or another, all that speed’s not worth much if we’re not 100 percent protected.

FYI: A zero-day attack happens when a hacker discovers a new security flaw in a device or a device’s software. It refers to the fact that the hacker only just found the hole and is exploiting it quickly before users have a chance to fix the problem.

Webroot can be annoying in other ways as well. For instance, not all the software’s features are directly available through the app. That meant we had to switch back and forth between the app and the site. Ultimately, though, we could have gotten used to that sort of frustration. What we couldn’t get used to was lightweight protection.

MS Antivirus: Surprise! This Antivirus Is … a Virus

We couldn’t make a list like this one without including at least one actual piece of malware. There are actually tons of these programs floating around out there. New ones pop up all the time, and old ones get recycled with new names. MS Antivirus, for example, has gone by dozens monikers over the years, including:

  • XP Antivirus
  • Spyware Guard
  • Vista Antivirus
  • PC Defender Plus
  • Total Security

What happens when you download the program? Its most insidious feature is that it actually seems like a genuine antivirus. It pretends to perform a scan, just the way a real antivirus would, and then lets you know that — surprise! — your device is infected with all sorts of malware that it can get rid of … for a small fee. The thing is, even if you realize it’s a scam at this point, it’ll continue to send you regular notifications suggesting you buy the full version. That slows down your device. And MS Antivirus can be hard to get rid of because it modifies system registries.

MS Antivirus actually wound up on the New York Times website in 2009. Sure, it took the form of an ad, and you actually had to download it for it to do any harm to your device. It was an ad on the Times site, though. With credentials like that, it’s no surprise that lots of people were fooled. Would you have been one of them?

Choosing the Right Antivirus

OK, so you know three antivirus software to avoid. There are plenty more out there you should stay away from, though. Trust us. What you need is a way to identify good antivirus. You’re in luck. We have just the thing. Here’s what you ought to be looking at when you’re on the market for protection against malware and other scary online monsters:

  • Virus detection: First and foremost, how well does your antivirus detect malware? After all, that’s why you installed it, right? You could download a few viruses and then run your antivirus and see what happens. It might be simpler and safer to just check out our full range of reviews, such as our TotalAV review. You’ll find we always test the software we review, and we always let you know the full results.
  • Scans: The best antivirus is always running in the background, detecting malware in real time. That’s known as on-access scanning. It means as soon as you start the program, it goes until you shut it down. Of course, it’s nice to be able to scan on-demand, when you want to, just in case you’re feeling a little anxious about the state of your system. So we prefer antivirus that offers us the flexibility to do either.
  • Behavior-based detection: Traditional antivirus programs worked from a blacklist of malware. Basically, they compared every piece of software that you downloaded to a database of known viruses and flagged anything that matched. You can do better. Programs these days also use something called behavior-based detection, which monitors how software acts and flags anything that seems the least bit suspicious.
  • Cost: Price can be subjective. There’s lots of variation on the market, and price can vary significantly depending on what features an antivirus includes and the length of the contract you’re willing to sign. Generally speaking, costs vary between around $30 to $50 per year, or $2 to $4 per month. It really comes down to which features are most important to you and how much you’re willing to pay to get them.
  • Privacy policy: Not everyone considers a company’s privacy policy before investing in the company’s product. That’s too bad, since privacy policies tell you everything you need to know about how that company plans to treat you. Antivirus companies that collect lots of your personal information and have no qualms about selling it to the highest bidder don’t take your privacy seriously. That’s gotta make you wonder about how well they’re going to protect your device.

Pro Tip: Keep your antivirus running 24/7 in the background of your device to ensure you’re always protected.

Want to find out even more about how to choose the right antivirus? Check out our complete guide to antivirus.


We can’t tell you which antivirus you should purchase. Ultimately, that will depend on your individual needs: the types of devices you use, the particular features you’re looking for, the price you’re willing to pay. The fact is, there are plenty of great antivirus out there.

There are plenty of bad ones too, though. Whether it’s just weak at catching malware or it’s a downright scam, you have to exercise a little caution when you’re choosing. Keep in mind that an antivirus isn’t just something you install because we said you should. This is a piece of software that’s supposed to be keeping you safe. It doesn’t just stop you from the hassle of an infection. It keeps hackers and identity thieves out of your life. Take it seriously. Your phones, laptops, and tablets will thank you.