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Antivirus software helps protect your computer against malware and cybercriminals. Antivirus software looks at data — web pages, files, software, applications — traveling over the network to your devices. It searches for known threats and monitors the behavior of all programs, flagging suspicious behavior. It seeks to block or remove malware as quickly as possible.
Antivirus protection is essential, given the array of constantly-emerging cyberthreats. If you don’t have protective software installed, you could be at risk of picking up a virus or being targeted by other malicious software that can remain undetected and wreak havoc on your computer and mobile devices.
If you already have antivirus software, you may believe you’re all set. But it might not be that simple. With new and savvier cyberthreats and viruses surfacing, it’s important to stay current with the latest in antivirus protection.
If there’s any crack in your cybersecurity defenses, cybercriminals likely will try to find a way in. Ensuring your antivirus software is up and running, and up-to-date, is a good place to start. However, hackers, scammers, and identity thieves are constantly tweaking their methods, so it’s a good idea to get protection from a comprehensive security solution.
What is antivirus software designed to do?
What exactly is antivirus software designed to do? We’re talking about a program or umbrella of programs whose purpose is to scan for and eradicate computer viruses and other malicious software, also known as malware. Antivirus software is a vital component of your overall online and computer security strategy in its protection against data and security breaches along with other threats.
When looked at simply, a computer virus is similar to a cold virus. It’s designed to go from one computer or device to the next, copying itself, and spreading malicious codes and programs that can damage and infiltrate your operating systems. Viruses are designed to give criminals access to their victims’ devices.
These viruses, spyware, and other malicious software are known as malware, and can be surreptitiously installed on your computer or device. Malware can do everything from crashing your device to monitoring or controlling your online activity. This control may enable hackers to send spam and steal your private information, which could eventually lead to identity theft.
Malware signature antivirus
Malware, or malicious software, installs viruses and spyware on your computer or device without your knowledge. Malware can steal your login information, use your computer to send spam, crash your computer system, and essentially give cybercriminals access to your devices and the information stored on them, and even the ability to monitor and control your online activity.
Malware signature antivirus software detects malware signatures, which are digital fingerprints of malicious software. Antivirus protection can scan for specific malicious codes, identify specific viruses, and disable these programs.
While malware signature antivirus protection is key for detecting and eradicating known viruses, one limitation is its inability to address new viruses. The antivirus product simply doesn’t contain these new virus signatures.
System monitoring antivirus
This is where system monitoring antivirus software comes into play. This antivirus protection can monitor software and computer systems for behavior that is suspect or atypical of the user.
For instance, alerts are created when a user connects to unfamiliar sites or attempts to access a large number of files, or when there’s a significant increase in data usage.
Machine learning antivirus
Another form of protection can be machine learning techniques, which monitor “normal” computer or network behaviors. The machine learning antivirus software is able to limit activities by programs or computers if they look suspicious.
More specifically, machine learning detection implements algorithms to facilitate malware detection that is broader in scope. This type of antivirus protection is beneficial because it works in tandem with other antivirus applications to provide multiple layers of protection.
One example of machine learning is the design of Microsoft’s latest antivirus software, which can gather data from more than 400 million computers running on Windows 10 to discover new malware. (Note: To be clear, this is diagnostic data that a consumer can opt out of reporting.) This, in turn, takes us back to the importance of signatures, as this intelligence will allow for the development of new signatures for the latest malware discovered. This automation is key in its ability to stay on top of the latest viruses.