What Is Antivirus Software?

April 18, 2016

When you buy a new computer, one of the first things you need to install is antivirus software, especially if you intend on spending most of the time online, which you probably will. People are often confused when it comes to antivirus protection because sometimes it can be difficult to comprehend what exactly viruses are and why they would want to harm your computer. So, let’s take a quick look at what viruses are and how antivirus software works.

What is Antivirus Software?

The Basics

A computer virus is similar to a real-deal organism that infects a body and makes it ill. Just like a live virus multiplies spreads and infects your body, so does a computer virus copy itself with the goal of damaging your system and data. The virus, which is a piece of computer code, not only copies itself – it also inserts itself into various programs on your computer, causing them to malfunction. A computer virus can cause such level of harm to a system that it ends up being absolutely unusable.

Viruses spread through the Internet, specifically through downloads. The only way to be absolutely safe from them is to abstain from using the Internet, much like the only 100% efficient way to avoid undesired pregnancy is to take a vow of celibacy. All jokes aside, we don’t have to steer clear from the web in order to avoid viruses – we can simply use good antivirus software.

How Does Antivirus Software Work

What is Antivirus Software?Which brings us to the question of the day – what is antivirus software? One definition would be that antivirus software is a program, or several programs, that keep your computer safe from virus infection, malware, spyware, worms, Trojan horses and other undesired intruders. Antivirus software searches for them, detects them either before they enter your system or after they already infiltrated it, and destroys them.

It is highly recommended that you install and run antivirus software before you go online on your computer because viruses and malware are so sophisticated nowadays they only take a few seconds to infiltrate your system. Also, the software needs to be up-to-date with all the recent viruses in order to be able to recognize them as intruders. Most antivirus programs are automatically updated so you don’t have to worry about accidentally forgetting to update your database and exposing yourself to one of the 50,000 or more new viruses and pieces of malware created daily.

Why Do You Need Antivirus Software

Antivirus software today includes protection not just against viruses, but also against undesired ads, spyware, ransomware, identity theft tools and other malicious programs. This ensures that not only your computer will be safe, but also your privacy, identity and even your money. Most AV programs include certain basic functions, such as the ability to scan certain files, folders, directories or to scan the entire computer (full scan), CD, external hard disk or flash memory scans, scheduled scans that run in the background, and isolation and/or removal of malicious code. Sometimes the program will ask your permission to clean a file and sometimes it will do it quietly in the background. Either way, you always have full access to the statistics regarding the number of threats detected and removed.

Free Vs Paid Antivirus Software

What is Antivirus Software?Many companies offer both free and paid versions of their antivirus software. While it’s nice to have free protection, bear in mind that free AV software usually only uses signature-based detection, looking for data and patterns that are recognized as being associated with malware. Paid AV programs tend to be more sophisticated. They are able to catch even the so-called “zero day” threats, or viruses and malware that were previously unknown. One way to do this is to use a so-called “sandbox” or an isolated environment in which a suspect file is placed so its behavior can be observed. Sometimes the program will ask you whether it should place a particular file in the sandbox and sometimes it will make the decision by itself, which is useful for beginners.

Additional Features

Antivirus software may also include other features, such as parental control, which are used to prevent your children from reaching certain content or web locations, file encryption tools, system optimization tools, anti-phishing tools, extra firewall protection and other useful things. Antivirus software is extremely important and considering that viruses and malware are getting more and more sophisticated each day, it’s essential to protect your computer (and other devices too!) with a high-quality, reliable AV program.