How Does Antivirus Software Work?

While cybersecurity has been an issue for a long time, the high-profile breaches and personal attacks have left people more engaged on the topic than ever before. One of the foundational elements of cybersecurity is antivirus software, yet it’s something too many of us go without or without updating.

How Does Antivirus Software Work?

Forbes reported malware increased 358% in 2020. Viruses are just one type of malware. Seventy-five percent of small and medium-sized businesses reported being affected by a minimum of one virus last year. Around 33% of household computers are infected with malware, and more than half of those infections are viruses.

The following is a general rundown of what antivirus software is and how it works.

What is a Virus?

A computer virus replicates itself, spreading from device to device. As is the case with a virus in humans, malware needs a host to reproduce. That means a user needs to open an infected program or file for malware to spread.

Your computer or device can crash, or cybercriminals can steal private information or send spam. It’s also possible to take over your entire system. Then, they can make it appear a device is being used from a different location, creating additional security problems.

Along with viruses, which are a piece of code, there are worms. Worms are malware computer programs that also replicate, and they usually spread to other devices through a network.

The Basics

While the specifics can vary depending on the provider and platform, in general, antivirus software scans files on your computer for certain patterns that could indicate the presence of malicious software. Malicious software is also known as malware.

Anti-virus software is sometimes called anti-malware software.

Vendors of antivirus software update it regularly, based on the malware threats detected at any given time.

Most antivirus software solutions include automatic scans, and you can opt to do manual scans.

With automatic scans, the antivirus software is configured to scan certain files or directories in real-time automatically. You may be prompted at specific intervals to do full scans.

With manual scans, you can, for example, save and scan email attachments or downloads instead of directly opening them from the source.

Antivirus software will check your devices and programs, comparing them to known types of malware. Antivirus software also scans the device for behaviors that could indicate an unknown malware.

Most types of antivirus programs will use three different processes to scan.

There’s specific detection. Specific detection looks for malware that’s already known based on a set of characteristics.

Generic detection looks for malware variants of known types, and then heuristic detection scans for previously unknown viruses based on file structures or suspicious behaviors.

The Benefits

Antivirus software protects devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. They can also protect things like your documents and photos. The benefits of good antivirus software include:

  • Detection and blocking of not just viruses and malware but also ransomware.
  • Removal of viruses, ransomware, and malware.
  • Prevention of identity theft and blocking fraud and phishing attempts.
  • Warning you about potentially dangerous or malicious websites or links before you click on them.
  • Scans of the Dark Web to see if the information is compromised.
  • Some feature secure password encryption.
  • Helps to keep your computer operating smoothly and efficiently.

Essentially, when you have antivirus software, it’s going to protect your devices from any type of malware that could get into your system and wreak havoc. The best antivirus solutions safeguard against phishing attacks, which are increasingly prevalent and sophisticated.

They can also monitor what’s happening on your devices to prevent identity theft.

If antivirus software finds malware, it may ask you if you want to clean the file, or it may automatically remove threats.

Symptoms of an Infection

If you don’t have antivirus software or don’t keep it updated as necessary, signs that you have an infected device can include that it operates slower than normal, or popups often show up when you’re offline and online.

You may have slow programs, don’t open or close unexpectedly. Your browser may not show all of a website or any of it, and you could have problems when trying to recognize external hardware.

Blue screens with an error code can also be a symptom of an infected device.

Antivirus software isn’t infallible, but it is an important, necessary component of protecting yourself and your business against cybersecurity threats. You significantly reduce the risk of cyberthreats when you have good antivirus solutions in place.

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How Does Antivirus Software Work?