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What are the Different Types of Online Security Software?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are many different types of online security software. Some of them come in a package of more than one type, while others can be purchased or downloaded separately to offer more customized protection. Software may include firewalls, anti-virus software, spam blockers, full security suites, and parental blocks. Each type is made specifically for a particular purpose, and choosing the right kind is key to keeping a computer fully protected.

Firewalls are a type of online security software that block particular sites or people from sending files to or from a computer. The most basic of these may only be able to block particular URL addresses, while others can block out entire sites based on content. Firewalls can also be installed to protect a network of computers, and can range in price from free to very expensive.

Basic anti-virus software is another type of online security software. There are generally various aspects to these programs, including built in firewalls and specified Internet protection features. Email filters and spam blockers are common features that are included, as well as Internet safety filters which prevent users from accidentally downloading malicious files or viruses to their computers.

Most computers sold today have some kind of anti-virus software built in. A free trial period may be offered, after which time the software has to be purchased. There are also free versions of these programs found online, but features and protection may be limited.

Spam blockers can be found in both anti-virus software suites and as stand alone features found with many email hosting companies. Although spam is often not a security threat, as it is usually simply unwanted advertising email, most people agree that keeping it out of their in-box is a priority. In some cases, spam emails may contain links to fake websites that may try to steal information from the visitor or upload malicious code onto the visitor's computer. Generally, email host-based spam blockers are free of charge and come as a perk of joining a service.

Another type of online security software are parental blocks. These can often be downloaded at no charge from the user's Internet service provider (ISP). The effectiveness of such blockers may vary from ISP to ISP, and can sometimes be downloaded separately or as part of a security suite. Parental blocks can be set to block specified websites based on URL or content to keep children from viewing inappropriate material. Sites can generally be unlocked by using a special password.

Full security suites are the most advanced type of online security software. These can include all the traditional anti-virus features, computer scans, email protection, firewalls, and parental blocks all in one software application. The most sophisticated full security suites can also handle network security, with the most expensive models being used for large companies with hundreds of computers in a network. This type of software may not be necessary for a home computer, but is important for companies who send and receive large volumes of information daily.

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Discussion Comments
By Terrificli — On Jul 15, 2014

@Vincenzo -- You have a point about what happens when the cloud service used by the scanner goes down, but you don't have a problem if your Internet service goes down. If you are not on the Internet, what do you care about viruses coming into your system, anyway?

A good number of those cloud based scanners can still protect your system even if the company's server is down for a bit. The packages that update by leaving copies of new virus definitions on your system might not protect against the latest threats, but they do have definitions that are often more current than the ones used by virus packages that are not cloud based.

By Vincenzo — On Jul 14, 2014

@Soulfox -- A real problem with those is that they can be too dependent on an Internet connection. What happens if your connection goes down or the cloud server is unavailable? You could run the risk of being unprotected.

By Soulfox — On Jul 13, 2014

If you are out shopping for antivirus software, do yourself a favor and take a look at ones that are cloud based. Typical antivirus programs phone home from time to time, check for updates and download any that are needed.

The cloud based ones, though, update as soon as new virus definitions are added to them. In other words, you get instant updates and having one of those can help you stay ahead of the newest viruses. That is a very good thing.

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