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The Nonprofit’s Guide to Online Safety: Antivirus Technology

After unpacking the basics of online safety and exploring encryption best practices, today our Nonprofit’s Guide to Online Safety series continues with an in-depth look at antivirus technology.

What is a Virus?

A virus is any unwanted program that enters your device(s) without your consent or knowledge. Like viruses in humans, once the virus is in your system it can self-replicate and spread, potentially having cascading effects that reach out to affect others in your network. Once infected, viruses can go on to perform a slew of malicious actions, such as: slowing down your computer, damaging or deleting files, reformatting your drive, causing data loss, and more.

Some of the most common ways to contract a virus online are through pop-up ads and what are known as ‘spam websites’. Hackers can also target users by sending malicious emails or by infecting removable devices such as USB keys.

What Can You Do?

There are several ways to protect yourself against a virus attack. If you don’t already have one, consider installing an adblocker on your computer to limit your exposure to ‘malvertising’. uBlock Origin (for Firefox and Chrome) is a free, open-source tool that blocks intrusive ads as well as the ability of third-party companies to track your online activity. To learn more, read this article by Consumer Reports about adblocking software options and how they work.

Be mindful of email attachments and other incoming e-communication––suspicious senders may attempt to target you with viruses and other malware. Read our post, "The Nonprofit’s Guide to Online Safety: Understanding the Basics" to learn more about how to protect yourself online.

Last but not least, installing antivirus software is one of the most effective ways to protect your devices. This type of software is designed to detect the presence of viruses and to remove them from your system before they can do any damage. Especially when combined with a firewall, which monitors incoming and outgoing traffic from your network, an antivirus is your best line of defense against unwanted intrusions. Check out this video to learn more about antivirus and antimalware software work:

Choosing Antivirus Software

If you are a TechSoup Canada member, your organization may be eligible for the antivirus software available in our product catalogue. Here we introduce you to two of the world’s leading antivirus companies:


Bitdefender's antivirus and Internet security programs are among the best available in cybersecurity software. Bitdefender performs consistently well in third-party antivirus testing labs, scoring 100% detection rates against malware attacks in the past couple of years. You can find Bitdefender in our catalogue, including their GravityZone Business Security product, which is software that protects networked laptops, desktops, servers, and virtual machines from viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware, adware, rootkits, and other threats. Their Internet Security product reduces system administration costs by keeping your computers running smoothly and prevents uninvited connections to computers and other devices so intruders can't steal information, install and launch programs, or make other dangerous changes to your organization's computers. Bitdefender also offers a free antivirus edition, best suited for personal use, as well as other desktop security apps.

Norton LifeLock

Norton LifeLock, previously known as Norton by Symantec, is one of the world’s leading security brands. Since 2017, Norton security products had 100% detection rates against both zero-day malware attacks (i.e., malware that is unknown to the public) and known malware attacks during third-party antivirus testing environments. You can find Norton Security Deluxe (protection for up to five devices) and Norton Small Business (protection for up to twenty devices) available in our catalogue.

To learn more about how to protect yourself from viruses, check out these resources from Norton LifeLock:

If you want to learn more about antivirus protection and your options, see also this article by PC Mag, The Best Antivirus Protection for 2020.