Do Online English Teachers Really Need Antivirus Software?
Yes. While latest versions of Windows and macOS include security features designed to protect your computer from getting infected, the nature of security vulnerabilities in current times has evolved beyond computer viruses. Most of these vulnerabilities live online, and as an online English teacher, online is where you spend much, if not most of your time. Not just that, it also happens to be a source of your income. Though a common myth seems to perpetuate that antivirus software is unnecessary (looking at you Mac users), you still do. Here’s why.
A Significant Amount of Malware Originates from China
China is certainly not the only place where hacking groups exist; hackers operate everywhere. That said, China happens to be a major source of malware. As an online English teacher, it’s likely you are working with a Chinese online ESL company. After all, China represents the largest ESL market by a wide margin, and this includes online ESL. Consequently, you will probably need to log into an online teaching platform that is served from China. This means your computer is susceptible to malware exploits, which can compromise your privacy, personal data, and infect your computer.
You Work Online
The very fact you work online means your devices are vulnerable to cyberattacks. According to AV-Test Institute, the development of malware for Windows OS reached 89.69 million, and 59,067 for macOS, in 2019. While the figures for malware developed for macOS declined from 2018, they rose significantly for Windows year-on-year. By no means does that clear Mac users from being targeted by hackers.
You Need More Than Just Antivirus Protection In 2020
Windows 10 includes its own antivirus and malware defense software, called Windows Defender. So technically, you don’t need to buy an antivirus software if you have a Windows PC. But, as we mentioned earlier, the threat of cybersecurity attacks has evolved beyond viruses and malware. We now have to contend with ransomware, which encrypts your computer and then demands you pay for the decryption key. There is also the threat of your account passwords being hacked, and of course, your IP address being logged while using the Internet, exposing you to the threat of personal identity theft. Then there’s your webcam and built-in microphone, which can be controlled remotely to record you.
Many Mac users do not think much about protecting their computers, but Macs are not immune to threats caused by vulnerabilities in third party apps installed on the device. Indeed, Zoom, a video-conferencing platform popular also with online English teachers, had a vulnerability in 2019 that could allow websites to control your webcam without your permission , resulting in Apple silently pushing a macOS update to address the vulnerability.
As this article from MacWorld points out, there are quite a number of malware specimens that your Mac could become infected with, especially if you do not have software to prevent it. Some of these types of malware even work by overloading your computer in order to force it to shut down.
The latest macOS (Catalina) has introduced several new features with a stronger emphasis on privacy and security. Notwithstanding, Macs need protection as much as Windows PCs do, because they can receive malware infected data, which can then find a home in the Mac and allow itself to be spread to other computers . In fact, one could argue that Mac users would be an easy target, because of the misconception amongst many Mac users that antivirus software is unnecessary for Macs.
What Do You Need to Protect Your Devices as an Online English Teacher?
There are plenty of articles that review antivirus apps for both Windows and Macs, and it can get rather confusing knowing which one is accurate, and thus, to take action. Because our focus is on getting you set up to excel at teaching English online, and minimizing the risks of becoming infected or getting hacked, we’re going to take a different approach. Rather than compare different antivirus software (which has been done to death), we’re going to tell you what you need to keep your computer safe from attacks and your online job (and income) going strong.
This is stating the obvious: anyone working online, including online English teachers, should invest in antivirus that keeps your device free from:
Safe Browsing with VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to browse the Internet privately. Many people overlook the importance of using a VPN, and take considerable risks by surfing on an unsecure connection. This is especially true in public WiFI areas like coffee shops and co-working spaces. A VPN is essential in 2020, particularly when logging into banking and other confidential sites. If you’re browsing the web without a VPN, you are essentially a prime target for hackers. A side benefit of using a VPN is that it also allows you to access sites that are inaccessible in your region.
Webcam and Microphone Protection to Prevent Eavesdropping
You want to feel confident about your personal privacy, and the last thing you want is for someone to eavesdrop on you through your webcam or microphone. Not only is this a threat to your privacy, it could cause you a lot of harm and stress if a hacker or infected app took over control of your webcam and microphone. You definitely want to know which apps are attempting to access your webcam and microphone.
Many top antivirus apps will notify you when an app or command is attempting to connect to your webcam or microphone. Or, you can use a dedicated app designed to notify you of webcam access attempts that appear to bypass requesting your permission via the OS.
Secure Password Vault/Manager
Responsible password management is one of the most important steps you can take to secure your important data. Using strong passwords like this: .B73xQEYsGJEEnybWJ.M is vital to your online security, as strong passwords are very difficult to hack. Still, people want to use one password they can easily remember and use for all their accounts, and that is dangerous because it is these passwords that tend to get hacked, and once they do, it is relatively easy for hackers to simply discover all of your accounts and access them using that very same password. Not cool.
Every website you access should have its own unique credentials using a strong password, in addition to multi-factor authentication (MFA).
However, this creates a dilemma, because you simply won’t remember all of these passwords, and, if using MFA in addition (which you should), it would be virtually impossible to know your password without the assistance of a secure password management app. A secure password manager employs high-level security techniques such as end-to-end encryption to make your stored passwords unreadable to anyone other than you (or whoever else has access to your password management app).
Can't You Just Use Free Antivirus Software?
While there are many free versions of antivirus software that can detect and clean malware, spyware, and adware your computer, most free offerings do not provide real-time protection. In other words, with free versions, you usually have to remember to run the app and scan your computer manually. What this means is you are approaching cyber threats in a reactive, rather than proactive manner. In this era, where people use and connect multiple devices to the Internet, you will want a solution that provides real-time protection from exploits, as you will forget (or neglect) to scan your device at some point. You want a solution that employs both preventative as well as curative security measures.
Again, if you are using Windows PC, the integrated Windows Defender does a decent job protecting you from cyber threats, though it still does not measure up to the top third party antivirus apps. So, if you want to stick with Windows Defender, be sure to invest in other security measures such as a VPN and secure password manager.
What Antivirus Software Do We Recommend?
There are actually many good antivirus scanners, which makes it difficult to choose one. That there are hundreds of antivirus software review articles does not help the decision-making process either. Each seems to give its own version of a top ten list. The fact is no antivirus software can claim to fully protect you. Cyber threats are organic, and it’s only with a combination of the security measures we’ve mentioned that you can significantly limit the threats. With that said, what we recommend as the best antivirus software for online English teachers ticks all of the boxes if you are a Windows user. For Mac users, skip over to our recommended solutions for Mac online security.
Best Antivirus Software for Online Teachers using Windows
We have tested several antivirus apps on our own devices, and have concluded that the most well-rounded app in terms of security feature set, ability to detect and remove threats, and usability, is Bitdefender Internet Security. Bitdefender is the ideal choice for most online English teachers because it offers all of the above security measures at an affordable price, and it has consistently ranked at the top of independent tests for effectiveness at detecting and removing cyber threats and protecting the user’s online privacy.
Out of the box, Bitdefender Internet Security covers comes with:
In addition to these essential cybersecurity measures, Bitdefender also provides other online safety features such as a safe online banking through a secure browser, privacy firewall, and file encryption. It covers up to 5 devices, depending on the plan you choose, and all plans come with 24/7 tech support.
One con of Bitdefender Internet Security is that it can be a bit resource intensive. However, it should post no difficulty for most modern Windows computers. To install and use it, your device should meet the following requirements:
- Operating System: Windows 7 with Service Pack 1, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10
- CPU: Intel CORE 2 Duo (2 GHz) or equivalent processor
- Memory (RAM): 2 GB
- Available free hard disk space: 2.5 GB free space
Best Antivirus Software for Online Teachers using Mac
CleanMyMac X is technically not an antivirus software, as it offers a bevy of tools for keeping your Mac running smooth and clean. This is a well-established app for Mac, developed by MacPaw, one of the most famous names in the Mac developer community.
CleanMyMac X is used by Mac users around the world to solve a number of issues, ranging from slow-running Macs to optimizing storage. In addition to these optimization tools, CleanMyMac X can also fully uninstall apps on your Mac, since the default Move to Trash function in macOS doesn’t, resulting in an accumulation of leftover files from various apps you have installed and uninstalled over the course of your computer’s life.
But we want to protect your Mac from malware, too, and CleanMyMac X can do just that, offering both real-time and manual malware scanning.
Here’s a sample of what you can do with CleanMyMac X:
To install and use it, your Mac needs to meet the following:
- Operating System: macOS X Yosemite (10.10) or later
What about Webcam and Microphone Monitoring?
At this time, CleanMyMax X Mac does not include webcam and microphone monitoring. While MacOS is already quite effective at gatekeeping access to your webcam and microphone, it is not impossible (as we saw with the Zoom vulnerability) for apps and websites to gain access to them without your permission. Fortunately, there’s a free app called OverSight, which is designed to monitor access to your webcam and mic.
What about Secure Password Management?
You will need a separate password manager. Don’t fret though – you have options. 1Password is a standalone password manager app which is actually more robust in features and usability than the Bitdefender password management feature available for Windows. If you are looking for a family solution, 1Password also offers an affordable family plan that lets you share passwords between family members in encrypted vaults.
Using a VPN is a Must
In an increasingly globalized world where you can expect to spend a significant amount of time online, especially as an online ESL teacher, it goes without saying that you need to have a VPN to guard your privacy. The last thing you want is to have your personal data stolen and used. The importance of using a VPN can’t be stressed enough – every time you access your online bank accounts, virtual wallets (e.g., PayPal), email accounts, you risk exposing your data, debit/credit card info, and passwords.
Using a VPN gives you a way to surf and use the internet anonymously and the ability to conceal your actual location. We recommend none other than ExpressVPN, which is hands down the best VPN available today. You can use ExpressVPN on a Windows or Mac computer, and there are also versions for iOS and Android.
If you are an online English teacher, the cost of protecting your devices from malware and other cyber threats is minimal to the risks that come with being infected or hacked. If your computer is infected with ransomware, you could end up not being able to access vital files and folders. Your online activity can be tracked and your all-important passwords to banking and other websites could be compromised. If your computer becomes unusable due to these cyber threats, you may find yourself losing more income than the small cost of investing in antivirus protection.
We implore anyone, and particularly online English teachers, to purchase and use a top tier antivirus software such as Bitdefender to protect their devices and data, as well as prevent themselves from spreading malware to others.