A recent report by Microsoft shows that 75 percent of PC users today use antivirus protection. But even if you have installed security software, it isn't a cast-iron guarantee that it's protecting you as well as it could.

Here are five of the most common pitfalls to avoid when using antivirus software:

1.    Multiple antivirus programs
Two do not provide better protection than one, as antivirus programs conflict with each other. They can see each other as potential threats and thereby try to fight each other. We always advise you check if you have two antivirus programs running and if so, uninstall one.

2.    Lack of firewall
Antivirus is not the same as a firewall. Antivirus is security software that can locate, identify and isolate potential virus attacks on your PC. However, firewall is a specialised system that ensures that unwelcome traffic in and out of your PC is blocked before it enters. This way hackers will not be able to vandalise and steal your files and information. According to the study “IT Security Survey 2013” conducted by AV Comparatives, 37 percent of the world’s PC users today have free antivirus protection installed. But since the free options rarely include a firewall (this is generally found in Internet Security Suites) you are more exposed.

3.    Expired license
Some have an antivirus program installed which has expired without them noticing it. It happens, for instance, when you buy a new PC with preinstalled security software, which often expires after 90 days. Most security software will ask if you want to renew your protection, and if you choose to ignore the message, it can automatically switch off and stop nagging you.

4.    Inactivated features
According to the report from AV Comparatives, 40 percent use paid antivirus which has both antivirus protection and firewall. However, it is important to make sure that you have all features turned on. Perhaps you have had to install a program that was blocked by your antivirus protection, and therefore you turned the software off and forgot to enable it again afterwards. We have also seen examples of malware that has infected the antivirus software itself, and disabled all protection without the user knowing.  

5.    Phishing attacks
Don't make the mistake of thinking that you are protected against everything you click on, simply because you have the best antivirus program installed. Although most programs include anti-phishing protection, you are not safe from cunning hackers who try to extract passwords and account details from you. Be critical when clicking on links and attachments in emails, even if they are from Paypal or your bank – or if an email congratulates you on winning a million pounds. In fact, 75 percent of all emails sent worldwide is spam, according to Microsoft’s report.

The report (Security Intelligence Report vol 14) shows that PC users without antivirus protection are five times as likely to be attacked by viruses and malware than protected PCs. However, it isn't a surprising conclusion, says Janus R. Nielsen. “We often experience customers who believe they are protected when they are not.”

Janus R Neilsen

About the author

Janus R. Nielsen is CEO and security expert of www.mysecuritycenter.com. Click here to get free PC optimisation.