What is Antivirus Software?

What is Antivirus Software?

What is Antivirus Software?
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Back in the early days of the internet, computer viruses were primarily designed to damage your computer in some way or render it inoperable. Although these types of viruses still exist, the unfortunate and scary truth is that viruses, and the people who create them, have evolved in a much more nefarious direction.

The objective these days is not so much to damage your device but to steal your personal information, identity, banking credentials, or even spy on you through your webcam for blackmail. For these reasons, it’s important to be aware of the various cyber threats that exist and take action to combat them.

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In this article, we will discuss the most common cyber threats, including malware and spyware. We will also cover what antivirus software is, how it works, and explain how you can keep yourself safe by leveraging the power of a trusted antivirus program.

Common Types of Cyber Threats

Billions of dollars are spent each year combatting cybercrime, but all too often, the criminals behind these threats are one step ahead of the game. Every time a security vulnerability is discovered and patched, the hackers are already working to exploit the new update, and they have a few go-to strategies that serve them well year-in and year-out.

Computer viruses, malware, and spyware are by far the most common security threats online, so let’s take a look at each one of these threats so that you’ll know what to look out for.

What is a Computer Virus?

Computer viruses come in all shapes and sizes, each one designed with a different malicious intention. Some viruses are meant to destroy your device for seemingly no reason other than for the amusement of some hacker; other viruses are much worse and are designed to steal your identity or ruin your life.

At the end of the day, a computer virus is a snippet of code that tells your device or a web browser how to behave. This code can be detected and removed, but by the time you realize that your device is infected, it may already be too late.

Presently, there are two specific types of malicious code that are particularly widespread and damaging. Malware and spyware are responsible for countless cybercrimes each year, so let’s take a closer look at each of them so that you can understand the difference between the two.

What is Malware?

Malware is a type of computer virus; it’s a snippet of code that executes an application on your device, granting the perpetrators access to your personal information. Malware applications often run in the background of your device, and, likely, you won’t even notice that your device has been compromised. Malware is a blanket term, and each specific virus has a different aim, but here are a few of the most common objectives for malware distributors:

  • To steal your personal information, files, pictures, and documents
  • To steal your social media and banking login credentials
  • To transform your device into a bot that distributes more malicious code
  • To pop-up ransomware threats that try to extort you into sending money

Regardless of what the malware is designed to do, it isn’t going to be anything beneficial for you. Even the less serious malware programs that are only designed to annoy and frustrate you still take up a lot of your computer’s resources, causing your device to run slower or not function at all.

What is Spyware?

Spyware is perhaps the most troublesome sort of virus, as it is often installed on your device without you even realizing that you downloaded anything. Spyware includes things such as key loggers, which record all of your keystrokes, allowing hackers to see all of your passwords and personal communications, and webcam hijackers that allow others to watch and record you through your webcam without you even being aware that it’s on with the hopes of catching you in a compromising position, which the hackers can then use to blackmail you for money.

How Does Antivirus Software Work?

The good news is that some fantastic antivirus programs can scan for, detect, quarantine, and remove these types of threats the second they appear on your device so that the hackers will never have a chance to execute their plan.

There are a few different options on the market when it comes to antivirus software, but they all do more or less the same thing. That said, some antivirus programs are definitely better than others and can do more to protect you, your device, and your personal information.

Some of the best features to look out for include automatic security definition updates, deep-scanning capabilities, anti-malware, spyware, Trojan functions, quality firewalls, and pop-up blockers.

The best antivirus programs will do much more than this, but if an antivirus software doesn’t do these basic things, then save your money for a better program. Antivirus software protects you in a very real, tangible way, and a quality antivirus program is not something to skimp on.

That said, some great options on the market don’t cost a fortune and do a great job at protecting your device and personal information. Be sure to find a program that has many millions of downloads, good reviews, and has been around for a while; by doing this, you’ll avoid any scams, fake antivirus programs, and a whole host of other potential pitfalls.

What Does Antivirus Software Do?

There are four main tasks that any good antivirus or anti-malware software will be able to do for you. Let’s take a moment to go over each of them so that you can understand why antivirus is so important.

1. Scanning your Device for Viruses, Malware, and Spyware

One of the primary functions of good antivirus software is to scan through the thousands of files and folders on your computer and check each one to make sure it is safe. If the antivirus program detects a known threat, it will alert you and can subsequently quarantine and remove the virus.

2. Updating Security Definitions

The best antivirus program on the planet is completely useless if you don’t routinely update the security definitions. Security definitions are known threats, and it is these threats that the antivirus program is looking for when it scans your system. A good antivirus application will automatically update the security definitions for you so that you’ll always have peace of mind knowing that your device is safe from the latest cyber threats.

3. Quarantining Detected Threats

Once a harmful virus, malware, or spyware application has been detected on your system, the antivirus program will sequester that code so that it is unable to affect your device. The technical way that this quarantine works is a little complicated, and it’s not necessary to go into too much detail about it, but basically, it moves those files to a virtual machine on your computer where they are unable to access any of the real information on your device.

4. Removing Threats from Your Device

Finally, and most importantly, a good antivirus program will be able to completely remove the troublesome programs from your device so that they are no longer operating. Depending on when the virus was detected, the damage may have already been done, but if you have a reputable antivirus program with up-to-date security definitions, then odds are that your antivirus system will catch the threat immediately before any serious problems arise.

Do You Need Antivirus Software?

Many people think that viruses are the result of visiting sketchy websites, and that used to be the case, but these days viruses and the hackers who code them are much more sophisticated than they used to be. The viruses of today have been designed to penetrate your computer’s defences without you having visited any shady sites at all; for this reason, it is imperative that you protect yourself and your computer with a trusted antivirus application.

Conclusion

Computer viruses and the people who distribute them are very clever; they are designed to penetrate your device’s defence systems and extract your personal information, banking credentials, or worse.

If a hacker steals your identity, it can take years to sort out, and by that time, chances are that the damage has been done. Hackers can also steal private photos or other sensitive information, leaving you in a really uncomfortable situation.

For the reasons mentioned above, it is of the utmost importance that you protect yourself from these sophisticated cyber threats, and the best way to do that—the only way to do that—is to install reputable antivirus software on your device today.

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