Is it safe to use Malwarebytes? Online protection explained

(Image credit: Malwarebytes)

Malwarebytes is a free security software that's built to keep you protected from – as the name suggests – malware, but that also means ransomware, malicious websites and more. But is it safe to use? To be clear, the reason you've likely arrived here is because you've been advised by some sort of pop-up, or other insecure message, that Malwarebytes is a danger to you. It's not. 

This is a legitimate internet security software that's been around for years and used by millions. If you've been told it's a threat, or to remove it, you've likely been compromised – meaning you actually need it more than ever. Don't forget - you should always look to have the best antivirus software on your PC, to keep you safe from all types of malware and malicious software packages.

What is Malwarebytes?

Malwarebytes is a free software offering, with a paid premium version, that will hunt out and help you deal with malware on your device. Malware is anything that has been designed to cause damage to your device and includes viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware and more.

Malwarebytes is able to recognize these threats, using its continually updated database, so that they can be rooted out and removed. In the case of Malwarebytes it also uses a smart behavior matching AI of sorts to detect malware that hasn't even been seen before. Malwarebytes detects or blocks more than eight million threats per day with over 187,000 scans per month.

What is malware?

This is threatening software created to compromise a device. In most cases these are used to steal data or personal information from a person or business.

Ransomware is a sub-category of this. These threats aim to steal important data to be used against the individual as a way to make them pay out. They are held ransom by the data stolen by the hacker.

Malware is usually a worm, which spreads itself across a network. Whereas a virus requires the user to run infected software for it to get into the device. 

Is Malwarebytes all I need?

While Malwarebytes will sing its own praises about how much better than antivirus software it is, the reality is that having this as well as an antivirus package is probably best. A 'belt and braces' sort of approach.

Malwarebytes lacks some of the real-time protection you'll get from AV software, like a firewall, in the free version at least. This is why it works well as a supplementary layer of security. If you're already infected, this is what you want to get you cleaned out. But to avoid infection in the first place getting anti-virus software is a good idea. Windows Defender, for example, is now a really capable antivirus software that is included for free with Windows 10. What it can't do is the malware side of things for ransomware, for example. This is where having both Windows Defender and Malwarebytes is a great double team way to stay protected and secure. Since both are free it seems silly not to use them. If you want total protection, something like BitDefender 2020 is your best option.

How good is Malwarebytes?

If you have the paid version of Malwarebytes then you'll also have live, real-time protection. This makes it more effective but it still has a way to go - it can't match software packages like BitDefender and Norton 360.

In AV-test results it achieved a usability score of six out of six, with no false detections. It got four out of six on performance with slowing down of the machine it was on more than the average. For protection is got 4.5 out of six with protection against 0-day malware attacks at 96.2% compared to the industry standard of 98 percent but for malware from the last four weeks it got 100%, as you'd expect.

Luke Edwards

Luke is a veteran tech journalist with decades of experience covering everything from TVs, power tools, science and health tech to VPNs, space, gaming and cars. You may recognize him from appearances on plenty of news channels or have read his words which have been published in most tech titles over the years. In his spare time (of which he has little as a father of two) Luke likes yoga, surfing, meditation, DIY and consuming all the books, comics and movies he can find.