When it comes to staying safe online, computer users are rightly pointed in the direction of internet security software. But, with oodles of companies ready to protect your sensitive data and information, a reel of questions begin to surface.

Initially, users will ask themselves whether they should subscribe to a full, paid antivirus suite, or simply settle for a free version. While the answer to that question isn’t so cut and dry, it is almost always the case that devices receive far more comprehensive, stronger protection when safeguarded by the full variety.

But why is that exactly? Well, besides the fact that a paid subscription – with extra tools and enhanced features – can offer better levels of protection, it is a good time to get very serious about internet security. Nowadays, the threat of cyber attacks couldn’t be more real and widespread, with viruses and malware – the notorious ransomware in particular – regularly hitting the news pages.

Cyber crime is ever prevalent, and hackers are constantly looking to exploit vulnerabilities in computer systems. Worst of all, hackers continue to plan new ways of duping users into letting them breach their data. While it’s true antivirus software can’t guarantee 100% safety, surfing without protection could wind up costing you private data – be it personal or business-related – money, and, ultimately, your precious time.

Though we strongly advise running a fully-loaded antivirus program, it’s down to users to select the right package for them. Just keep in mind that free or trial versions usually limit the full functionality of features and controls, often locking key tools such as customizable scan schedules. If you already have a free/trial program in swing, don’t panic – you can always upgrade.

When browsing antivirus software, be on the lookout for real-time protection, browser protection and a firewall, among other key fundamental features. In addition, be sure to install a well-known, secure browser such as Firefox or Chrome to offer an extra layer of online safety.

Beyond the technical side, remember that common sense can prove crucial. In other words, don’t solely rely on antivirus to get you out of trouble! For instance, if an email from a friend asking you to download a file looks dodgy, phone that friend for reassurance before clicking. If a site looks dubious and offers something that sounds too good to be true, then – you guessed it – it probably is.