What is anti-malware?
A type of security software that guards PC/laptop/mobile device against malicious software, a.k.a. malware. It has two major tasks: to detect and prevent malware from infecting computers, and to find and remove malware if its already in the system. Often, anti-malware comes as a part of Internet security suites, along with anti-spam, safe browsing, parental control etc.
In recent years there has been a significant rise in types of malware (ransomware, spyware, adware, cryptojacking, rootkits, email phishing, viruses, etc.) as well as unlawful attacks. According to Statista, each year literally billions of malware attacks take place worldwide. Consequently, antimalware tools are in high demand.
Why or when should you use anti-malware? Malware attacks and tricks are evolving all the time, and top security software applies various methods of detection and database of malicious signatures to identify threats in real-time. On enterprise level, with computer networks and valuable data, anti malware may be set to provide such protection, as well as track metrics and analytic tools for insights.
How is it different from antivirus? One of the leading vendors of anti-malware gave a clear explanation, and if paraphrasing, a virus is a specific threat, and malware is a term encompassing a multitude of threats, therefore any virus is malware, but malware isn’t only viruses. In contrast to antivirus programs, anti-malware focuses on the newest threats on the web and is updating much more regularly.
Best anti-malware programs
It’s a ‘David and Goliath’ type situation with software against malware, where Malwarebytes stands tallest and glorious, foreshadowing any other contenders. Though, it does not mean other contenders are worthless. Malwarebytes, of course, gained firm ground with its usability, powerful scanning, stability, real-time detection. It offers a 14-day free trial, and the basic one-year plan costs $40, and let’s leave it at that.
Overall, a reputable and effective anti-malware program should offer tools such as scan scheduler, quarantine and removal, exclusions, PUP detection, anti-adware, anti-spyware, program cleaner, etc. Exact techniques may differ from software to software: signature-based detection (databases of known malware to check suspicious files), behavior-based detection (detecting yet unknown malware through characteristics, intentions, machine learning), and sandboxing (using isolated virtual environment to test suspicious files before allowing them in).
If a user has a preference of certain antimalware method, he can research security programs on the market and select his best. Strong Malwarebytes alternatives could easily be Emsisoft, AVG, Spybot, HitmanPro, Avast. In fact, you can check our review of Top 15 anti-malware tools, which also includes WMSRT - WIndows Malicious Software Removal Tool - an easy option to scan for issues, that can not be discarded too.
For instance, performance tests in our mentioned review, conducted in October 2018, demonstrated that in terms of scan time and detected threats, Malwarebytes, HitmanPro, Spybot ‘Search and Destroy’, GridinSoft were the most efficient.
Types / Features
As we’ve mentioned, each anti-malware applies different detection strategy, or a combination, to protect against damaging code. So, we may divide them in 3 types:
- Signature-based, such as Emsisoft Anti-Malware Home or McAfee.
- Behavior-based, such as Malwarebytes or HitmanPro.
- Sandbox, such as Cuckoo Sandbox, Shade or FortiSandbox.
Each type has peculiarities in user interface, system requirements, malware removal options, that should be in mind of a conscious customer.
By business model, there could be a distinction between all-in-one internet security suites and specialized programs. Avast, AVG, Kaspersky and so forth are good examples of security suite, where certain anti-malware tools are part of bigger integrated system. Malwarebytes, Malware Killer, Cybereason and others are software specifically designed to prevent malware and nothing more. Which type is more relevant is still a subject of discussion.
Malware, PUA/PUP, malicious scripts are on the rise, evolving constantly. In 2018, evasive malware and exploit kits emerged as one of the ways to pass through security software, for instance ransomware such as Cryptomix, Spora, TeslaCrypt, JigSaw. More and more attackers use malicious cryptomining, running hidden scripts on users’ devices without permission, basically hijacking resources, electricity, etc.
For anti-malware tools the upcoming years will be a busy time. Digital security suites are investing more money and introducing new techniques to protect computers, smartphones, networks, servers, IoT devices. New methods such as so called “vaccinations” against malware families (misleading malware to think it is already in the system), and others will have to up the game.
Malwarebytes Labs predicts the following challenges for 2019: high-profile password breaches, AI-assisted malware, self-propagating exploits like EternalBlue to spread infections, more attacks on Microsoft Edge browser, skimming - i.e. hijacking checkout pages and intercepting payment information.
What is anti-malware software?
Anti-malware (a.k.a. Antimalware, anti malware, malware removal software, malware scanner tools) are special software programs that detect and remove malware from computer devices. Anti-malware protects against malicious scripts, viruses, rootkits, ransomware, spyware, adware.
How does anti malware work?
To prevent malware, this special type of security software implies three main methods: signature-based malware detection (see the 2nd paragraph above), behavior-based detection (by intentions, behaviors, actions, etc.) and sandboxing - testing stuff in virtual environment before allowing it into the system. By design, anti-malware can do the following tasks: block suspicious websites, quarantine the detected malware, display data about the infections and insights into how and how far a malicious script has compromised a network.
What is the best anti-malware?
You can’t go wrong with Malwarebytes, HitmanPro, Emsisoft, Comodo, Zemana, AVG/Avast. For more considerations, pros and cons, tips and more read Best anti-malware tools on ThinkMobiles blog from October 2018.
Is anti-malware and antivirus the same thing?
No, but similar. A virus is also a malware, but malware isn’t necessarily a virus. Thus, an antivirus software protects against computer viruses specifically, while antimalware covers a wider range of threats: trojans, worms, unwanted apps, ransomware, cryptomining, adware, exploits, keylogging, etc. Many antivirus programs have been expanding their functionality to defend against malware too. The best practice is to use both.
What is Malwarebytes anti-exploit?
Anti-Exploit is a security program that was bought out by malwarebytes from ZeroVulnerabilityLabs, and is now in beta-version, as of January 2019. It runs in the background and specifically targets zero-day exploits in browsers, rootkits, phishing scams, malicious links and sites. It is only available in Premium package.
What is Bytefence? Is it good?
Firstly, this is just one of the anti-malware programs and a popular antivirus. Secondly, it got (in)famous due to often being distributed in a bundle with another software which essentially means PUA. So it’s kind of “fight-crime-with-crime” situation. Many users online recommend removing it because it got them more malware instead of preventing it. We can neither confirm or disprove any information until we’ve tested it ourselves, so caution is our tip right now.
How to choose the right antimalware program?
Go with reliable and reputable. Seek programs that can protect itself against termination by another software, that won’t cause conflicts with antivirus, that can automate scanning and is always up-to-date. A good anti-malware is often an “all-inclusive” package/suite - with security scanning, parental control, password manager, web protection, backup and restore, firewall, etc. It should not affect PC boot time and overall performance, be easy to navigate, fast in scanning, provide full control over all elements.
About review process
We review top software products of given category, usually 10 to 15, and post it on our ThinkMobiles blog. We take reviews seriously, so it takes a while, however we’ll be covering as many categories as possible in the nearest future. We strive to bring value in reviews, so instead of few sentences and promo-pictures, we install and run each program for few days, study every feature, test the performance, explore all possibilities and limitations, make screenshots, record all the data.
Afterwards, we summarize the data, parameters, pricing, etc. in a comparison table, compile our experiences with each product into descriptions, pros and cons, add download/trial links. As a rule, we devote a separate chapter to performance tests (or comparison charts) measuring times it takes for software to execute various tasks. Finally, our reviews are independent and unbiased, we apply the same due process and testing for the advertised products.