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Antivirus software, or anti-virus software (abbreviated to AV software), also known as anti-malware, is a computer program used to prevent, detect, and remove malware.
Antivirus software was originally developed to detect and remove computer viruses, hence the name. However, with the proliferation of other kinds of malware, antivirus software started to provide protection from other computer threats. In particular, modern antivirus software can protect users from: malicious browser helper objects (BHOs), browser hijackers, ransomware, keyloggers, backdoors, rootkits, trojan horses, worms, malicious LSPs, dialers, fraudtools, adware and spyware. Some products also include protection from other computer threats, such as infected and malicious URLs, spam, scam and phishing attacks, online identity (privacy), online banking attacks, social engineering techniques, advanced persistent threat (APT) and botnet DDoS attacks.
Why it matters: Most people use antivirus software to make sure they get some much needed privacy and security protections while using their PCs online. However, free security suites can sometimes hoard your browsing data and other details and sell them to third parties. This is the case even with popular companies like Avast, which is putting the privacy of around 400 million people at risk.
At a time when high-profile tech executives are calling on governments to impose more stringent privacy rules, there’s nothing like another reminder that everyone is fighting to get a hold of your habits, preferences, and pretty much any other data that can be used by advertisers to target you more easily.
Such is the case of Avast, which is known for its popular free antivirus solution that an estimated 400 million users around the world depend on for their online security. According to a joint investigation by Vice and PCMag that involves leaked contracts and other company documents, Avast along with its AVG subsidiary have been keeping track of what users did online while using the free software they distribute.