kaspersky-lab-logoKaspersky? A reader asks…

I recently bought a computer from MicroCenter and the sales guy recommended that I get Kaspersky Total Security. I did and installed it. This week I read about how the US Government is banning Kaspersky products from being used in federal agencies. Do I need to switch to another product? I have a Windows 10 computer, and don’t do a lot of online surfing. I do online banking, shopping and social media, as well as email.

I think it’s early times for outright banning Kaspersky products, except for the most-paranoid consumers. That said, I think most consumers should be a lot more paranoid about computer and online security. I think the current US administration’s ‘nationalist/protectionist bend’ is driving this overly cautious attitude towards foreign products, specifically Russian-based ones.

malwarebytes-premium-screenshotI don’t use Kaspersky products, nor have I ever recommended them to my clients. I think depending on a sales person at a computer store is risky behavior, since they’re obviously motivated by their managers to push certain products. Likely ones that have a higher profit margin. For Windows 10, most consumers are reasonably well-protected by the built-in Windows Defender, and I recommend folks who are concerned add a Malwarebytes Premium subscription to their Windows computer.


Before Windows 10 came out, my recommendation was to use Bitdefender Internet Security along with Malwarebytes. But these days that’s really overkill (and a lot more expensive) than using the nicely-capable Windows Defender (no extra cost, built-into Windows 10) along with the significantly improved Malwarebytes 3.0 anti-malware product. Based on the computer/online internet use you describe, I think having Kaspersky or other subscription-based anti-virus products is not needed. You might want to consider using Windows Defender and (if you’re worried about your security) Malwarebytes. If you do go with Malwarebytes, don’t purchase more than a 1-year subscription (without auto-renewal) because in the next year, who knows what other great security products will be developed, or other changes to the computer security industry that could affect my recommendation.

If you do decide to remove Kaspersky (I think it would be “out of an abundance of caution”), be sure to cancel any subscription auto-renewal for the product (handy support link here). This goes for anyone removing any security product (Norton, Bitdefender, Avast, etc.) – as when you first buy/install the product, the (often sneakily) setup auto-renewal using your credit card. I think it’s ok to bail on an active subscription, but don’t leave yourself open to that being extended beyond its current expiration.

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  1. Hi, , my computer came preloaded with bitdefender total security, and has a three year subscription. Should I also install malwarebytes?

    • Hi David, If you have a current and valid subscription for 3 years, then you have adequate protection against pretty much the same threats that would be covered by Malwarebytes Premium. So no, I don’t think you need to add another subscription cost to your protection services, you already have paid enough.

      If you’re feeling particularly vulnerable and want to go the extra mile for protection, you could install the free version of Malwarebytes and just run it every once in awhile (it doesn’t work full-time like the Premium product). Sometimes I’ll see something slip by one protection program but get caught by another.

    • Also wondering what you and your readers think of the free Opera VPN for iPhone, and one that is built in to their desktop browser?

      In general, I’m curious in terms of Internet security and privacy, which browser do you recommend for desktop and for mobile?

      And should I be allowing browsers to share information across devices, should I use HTTPS everywhere, etc?

      I’m not sending national security information across the Internet, but I do use my computer for shopping, completing my taxes, and so on, so I want to be reasonably protected.

      • Opera was originally started as a Norwegian company, but in 2016 they sold it to a Chinese consortium. At that point I started to have some concerns, since it is suspected that some Chinese companies are closely tied to Chinese cyber-spying organizations. But your question is about the VPN aspect – I wrote about that in https://positek.net/vpn-for-iphone/ and mentioned a great resource for comparing VPN service providers at https://thatoneprivacysite.net/choosing-the-best-vpn-for-you/. I recommend you take a look at that. Your VPN needs are unique to you, and as that article will detail, you need to choose a VPN provider based on your needs and your needs alone.

        In fact, based on that website’s detailed charts for VPN providers, I chose NordVPN for my own iPhone (and computers). See my review at https://positek.net/nordvpn-for-iphone/. Like the reader who asked the question, I saw NordVPN as being the closest to what I personally needed in a VPN.

        Your second question about which browser – the choice depends on your needs, balancing security and convenience. I don’t think any one browser is going to be perfect for everything, but I will tell you that on iPhone/iPad/Mac I primarily use Safari, and occasionally use Google Chrome. On PC desktop, I primarily use Google Chrome and occasionally use Microsoft Edge. Some folks prefer Mozilla Firefox – usually because they’ve used it for years and have a lot of investment in terms of learning its ins and outs. And it also depends on your choice of mobile – if you use Android you don’t have the choice to use Safari.

        I find Google Chrome to be perfectly satisfactory for my regular use, because I use many different computers and smartphones/tablets. Being able to pickup on one where I left off on another (with Chrome tied into my Google account to sync things) is very convenient. I know that Google is watching my surfing habits because I see targeted ads everywhere I go that are (sometimes creepily) matched to my surfing and online shopping. But frankly, for most of my use of the internet, privacy often isn’t as important as convenience. For internet security, any web browser can show you a dodgy website that has embedded malware, and your best protection is to avoid indiscriminate surfing. It’s less of a risk on a Mac/Safari platform, or an iPhone/iPad with Safari, but with adequate protection like your Bitdefender program, you should be reasonably protected. Still, don’t surf to dodgy websites.

        When I want to be most sure of my security and privacy, I fire up NordVPN and then use the Private mode in my web browser. I know that still doesn’t fully secure my privacy (depending on where I go online), but it’s about the best you can get.

        Ok, your 3rd question about allowing browsers to share info across devices. As I mentioned, I use Chrome signed into my Google account so my browsing is shared across all my devices. This is for convenience. My feeling is that just using a web browser is going to give up lots of privacy (to Google for Chrome, Microsoft for Edge, Mozilla for Firefox), so I might as well get the personal benefits they offer as well. That doesn’t really risk my personal surfing habits any more than they are already.

        Your question about using HTTPS everywhere is a completely separate question. HTTPS simply ensures that everything you do on a website is encrypted between your web browser and the server you are visiting. The browser maker is still going to know you visited that website, and went to different pages, and how long you stayed there. They won’t know what you looked at inside that particular website. But the website administrators will.

        That said, I think every single website should be using HTTPS instead of HTTP. Especially since security certificates (from some providers) are now free, and many website hosting companies are allowing secure websites without an up-charge to the entity using them for their website. This is slowly implementing across the internet, but it may take a number of years before HTTPS is pervasive, especially for small businesses that don’t have an SSL-savvy person that can help them work this out. Internet and web hosting service providers are notoriously lax on pushing folks to SSL simply because it’s more work on their part.

        I think you should use HTTPS everywhere that it’s offered.

        It sounds like what you use your computer for is similar to many/most consumers. Adequate protection is not just a one-and-done affair. Using Bitdefender will help a lot to protect you, but by itself it isn’t enough. I’ve got several articles on how to use the computer and internet safely, and that is an ongoing and evolving process. As hackers adjust to the changing world, so should we. Check out my article https://positek.net/safe-digital-life/ which is my latest attempt to codify the set of actions and practices that you should follow for adequate safety in your digital life.

        If you want to know what my readers think, I encourage them to comment here.

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