For decades, experts have advised that antivirus software can help keep PCs safe - and many laptops arrive with programs pre-loaded.
But many top antivirus programs may actually do more harm than good, according to researchers from Concordia University in Montreal.
The researchers analysed 14 top software packages which shield users from content online, protect data or block viruses.
They found that many of the programs actually made computers LESS secure, by acting as a ‘gatekeeper’ on secure web pages - and effectively lowering the defences built into normal browsers.
‘Out of the products we analyzed, we found that all of them lower the level of security normally provided by current browsers, and often bring serious security vulnerabilities,’ says study co-author Xavier de Carné de Carnavalet
‘It’s stunning to observe that products intended to bring security and safety to users can fail as badly.’
‘We hope that our work will bring more awareness among users when choosing a security suite or software to protect their children’s online activities.
‘We encourage consumers to keep their browser, operating system and other applications up-to-date, so that they benefit from the latest security patches.