Privacy/security considerations for anti-virus on Windows 11 for non-technical users?

I have some family members who are running Windows 11. I appreciate from a privacy point of view this is already bad. I wish I could get them onto Linux but it’s not happening any time soon. It is what it is and I’d like to do the best I can for their privacy and security.

The threat model here definitely excludes any kind of targeted attack. As far as security goes, I’d like to do the best I can to avoid them picking up ransomware, having a virus destroy the system or otherwise losing data. For privacy, I’d just like to reduce the amount of general commercial surveillance and data collection.

I’ve seen all sorts of conflicting advice about the need for anti-virus on modern Windows. Does anyone here have any thoughts?

The family members in question are not incredibly tech savvy, so my primary feeling is that not having anti-virus is probably a security risk. I could be wrong and would be very interested in thoughts on this.

My current inclination is to go with Windows Defender. If I use a third-party anti-virus, that’s another company which gets a chance to pry around in the data on the system. Microsoft already own the OS so if they want to do privacy-invasive things they can, even if I’m not running Windows Defender. So they feel like the least-worst choice. (I appreciate Microsoft might find Windows Defender a convenient point to introduce spyware, so not using it might avoid some prying. But it still seems like the least-worst choice.)

Do not use 3rd party AV programs, almost all of them are malware/spyware.
Windows Defender is OK to use and “good enough”.
What your/many family members really need is a more security-conscious mindset so maybe try to educate them in this regard. No AV app will save you if someone clicks on everything that’s clickable without a second thought.


Thanks! While they are (sadly) not too interested in privacy, they do have some interest in security and I have done my best to educate them about common risks. But anyone can make a mistake and (although I am interested in counter-arguments) in their case I suspect having AV of some kind as an insurance policy is a net win.

The Windows defender is enough

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