The Big Difference Between Online Protection Software and Antivirus

Tips & Advice

Authored by Dennis Pang 

Online protection software. Antivirus. The two words get used interchangeably often enough. But sure enough, they’re different. And yet directly related when you take a closer look. 

The term “antivirus” has been with us for decades now, dating back to the first software that was designed to prevent computers from getting malware—malicious code, like viruses, that would lock up computers, scramble data, or otherwise damage computers and the data on them. Prime examples of these early types of malware include 1999’s “Melissa” virus spreads by infected email attachments and the even more devastating “ILOVEYOU” virus that incurred billions in damages worldwide. 

There’s a good reason why people default to the word “antivirus” so easily. Viruses have been on our collective minds for some time. And computer purchases have often been accompanied with the question, “Do you have antivirus for your computer?” By and large, the notion of antivirus has become pretty much engrained. 

Yet look ahead to today and you can see how dramatically things have changed since those early days. We still need antivirus, that’s for sure. But it takes far more than that to live life safely online right now. And that’s where online protection software comes in. 

What is online protection software? 

Online protection software protects you. It includes antivirus, yet it further protects your identity and privacy in addition to your devices.  

The way we use our computers, tablets, and phones nowadays shows the reason why we need such broad protection. We conduct so much of our lives online. We bank, we shop, we plan our finance online. We also run portions of our homes with smart devices and smart speakers. Increasingly, we track our health and wellness with connected devices too—like workouts on our phone and biometrics with consumer-grade and even medical-grade devices.  

All of this creates data. Data about who we are, what we’re doing, when we’re doing it, how often, and where. That’s precious information. Private information. Personal information. And understandably, that needs to be protected.  

Put simply, today’s threats have evolved. While viruses and malware remain a problem, today’s bad actors are out for bigger game. Like stealing personal and financial info for identity theft. Moreover, organizations large and small collect data from your devices and the things you do on them, personal data that many share and sell for profit. Some of this data collection gets quite exacting, compiled from a broad range of public sources that can include records like bankruptcies, real estate sales, and birth records—plus private sources that can further include your shopping habits, the people you chat with, and what your daily travels look like based on location information captured from your smartphone.  

If you find yourself surprised by this, you’re not alone. Tremendous volumes of data collection activity occur without people’s knowledge or consent. 

Now as to why anyone would want any of that kind of data about you, consider the multi-billion-dollar industry of online data brokers. They compile thousands of data points from millions of people and put these vats of data up for sale to anyone who’ll buy them. That could be advertisers, potential employers, private investigators, and background checkers. And it could be bad actors as well who could use your own data to spam, harass, impersonate, or otherwise harm you. 

Today’s online protection software protects you from today’s threats 

Once, so many of these intrusions on our privacy and identity were difficult to spot, let alone prevent. For example, your personal info gets caught up in a data breach and winds up posted for sale on the dark web. How are you to know that before it’s too late and thief racks up umpteen charges on your debit card? Also, with dozens and dozens of data brokers out there, how do you track down which ones have information posted about you and then request to have it taken down? And what if online identity theft happens to you and you’re faced with the time and dollar costs it involves to set things right? 

So just as online threats have evolved, so has online protection software. We go about so much of our day online, and online protection like our own McAfee+ helps you do it more privately and more safely. It’s quite comprehensive, and the various plans for McAfee+ include: 

  • Personal Data Cleanup reveals which high-risk data brokers and people search sites are collecting and selling your personal information and requests the removal of the information, confirms completion, and conducts ongoing scans as data is always being collected.     
  • Unlimited Secure VPN that automatically connects to public Wi-Fi to protect online privacy and safeguard personal data while online banking, shopping, or browsing.     
  • $1M Identity Theft and Stolen Funds Coverage to reimburse lost funds or expenses in restoring the customer’s identity, including losses to 401(k) accounts.    
  • Ransomware Coverage to reimburse up to $25,000 for losses and ransom fees.    
  • Licensed Restoration Experts who can take necessary actions to repair identity and credit issues, including assistance to assist with identity fraud of a deceased family member.     
  • Credit Monitoring and Alerts keeps an eye on changes to your credit score, report, and accounts with timely notifications and guidance so you can take action to tackle identity theft.  
  • Credit Score and Report to help you stay on top of daily changes to your credit score and report, from a single location.    
  • Credit Lock reduces the chance of becoming a victim of identity theft by allowing you to quickly lock and unlock your credit, which can help prevent unauthorized opening of accounts.     
  • Security Freeze prevents unauthorized access to existing accounts or new ones being set up in your name with a credit, bank, or utility freeze.    
  • Identity Monitoring for up to 60 unique pieces of personal information on the dark web with timely alerts up to 10 months sooner than competitive products.    

For certain, protections like these remain a primary focus of ours, because they protect you. And that’s who thieves and bad actors are really after—you, your information, your accounts, and even your identity. Expect us to continue to roll out more protections that look after you in this way and more. 

Antivirus, a part of your comprehensive online protection plan 

So, while antivirus and online protection software are different, they work together. Antivirus provides strong device security, which complements the additional privacy and identity features included with online protection. That reflects how times have changed. Once it was enough to protect our devices from viruses and malware. Now we have to protect ourselves as well. Antivirus alone won’t do it, but antivirus as part of online protection will. 

Introducing McAfee+

Identity theft protection and privacy for your digital life

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