What’s antivirus software anyway?

An antivirus program (AV) is a piece of software designed to secure your desktop computer, notebook, netbook, Mac or mobile device from malicious software (more commonly called”malware”).

Malware — more on that later — is the title given to some piece of code designed to interrupt your system in some manner, be in the event for the purposes of causing you grief, stealing your money, or another sort of mischievous or criminal behavior.

Antivirus software is designed to thwart that threat, typically via signature-based detection procedures. Virus signatures are based on unique portions of code found inside the malware and are typically check-summed/hashed and dispersed in the kind of regular antivirus signature updates. To put it differently, researchers in the antivirus businesses delve into a new computer virus or other pieces of malicious applications, examine it and then inform their security applications what to watch out for in order to discover it.

Considering that the antivirus industry was created in the 1980s, the technology has come on leaps and bounds, primarily in reaction to the increasing number of threats.

When the internet was in its infancy, the number of viruses and other forms of malware were minuscule compared to now. Because of this, AV vendors could keep their clients safe simply by sending out updates monthly on floppy disks. Nowadays, the amount of threats is huge and malware appears every second of the day. Infrequent updates are no longer enough and hence the security programs of now offer near-continuous upgrades, often delivered through the cloud.

Additionally, the manner in which viruses have been detected has changed. Simply matching signatures isn’t sufficient to manage the evolving threat — contemporary antivirus programs now tend to integrate additional tools like behavioral-based detection and intrusion prevention technology.

Is it safe to use a computer or other device without having antivirus or other security program installed?


It is the answer I want to give to this question but the reality is that, for the huge majority of people, it actually isn’t a great idea to use an interconnected device without some type of security protection installed.

Sure, you’ve read or heard from security specialists who never install antivirus and never pick up any malware in their devices, but are you an expert?

If not, you’re going to be taking a massive risk with your information if you do not protect it.

And if you are not using Windows, that does not make you immune — just because Microsoft’s operating system was the most concentrated, it does not mean other operating systems are completely overlooked. Malware on the Mac, for example, really is something and it’s becoming increasingly prevalent.

So, whatever system you’re using, antivirus can help by radically reducing the odds of your system being infected with a virus, Trojan or other malicious code.

That is not to say that any antivirus program will provide you 100% protection against all present and future dangers — it won’t — since some malware is specially designed to circumvent security applications and/or make itself challenging to detect.

You can improve your chances of preventing viruses and other dangers though. Here are some quick tips:

  • Pick an antivirus program that is highly regarded by independent testing labs like AV-TEST and AV-Comparatives.
  • Make certain your antivirus program updates regularly — at least once daily is advised. The same goes for your operating system — if security upgrades are available, install them immediately
  • Run complete scans on a regular basis. Most antivirus programs will assess recently installed apps but a complete scan can help detect anything that may have sneaked past your defenses
  • Pay attention to your computer — if it starts behaving strangely, functioning slowly, or you begin seeing a lot of web advertisements, chances are you have picked something up undesirable so run a scan straight away

Can a free antivirus program offer adequate protection?

There is an old adage that says you get what you pay for and in the event of antivirus software that is kind of true.

That is not to say free antivirus applications ought to be dismissed out of hand, however — some are really very good and might well be adequate for some people.

Concerning independent testing, AV-Test. Org results over a time period show that free antivirus programs do, overall, score lower than the paid-for alternatives in the market and our own experience has taught us that free programs also tend to suffer from a lack of additional attributes, less than stellar support, an obsession with up-selling, or a combination of all three.

Whether or not some of these issues are a deal-breaker for you will probably depend upon what you use your computer for, how you value your data and your personal financial situation.

In any event, installing any antivirus program is preferable to having none at all, though you really do need to be watching out for free imitation antivirus programs which are better than the viruses that they want to prevent in the first location.

What is the best antivirus to use?

I’m afraid I can’t just name a single product and let you go get it — antivirus is a personal choice and the best for you is very likely to be the one which provides the features you want and works nicely on your system when coming in at a price point that is suitable for your budget.

Having said that, you’ll most likely need to stick to software given by the biggest, most well-known, firms in the market, such as BitDefender, ESET, F-Secure, Kaspersky, McAfee, Symantec and Trend Micro, to mention but a few.

Something we can’t stress strongly enough is to do your research before purchasing or downloading an antivirus program.

They aren’t created equal and odds are you will use the identical program for at least a year so it is important to make an informed decision.

To begin, you’ll have to narrow down your search to antivirus programs that are compatible with your operating system. If you’re using Windows that will leave you with a far bigger pool that if you’re using a Mac or Linux so you’ll have to add in more standards.

Are you, by way of instance, a heavy gamer that will want to have an antivirus application that’s either light on resources or that has the capacity to suspend scans during gaming time? Are you an occasional surfer who never logs to sensitive websites or stores personal data in their own machine, thus creating a free antivirus program an attractive proposition?

When you have assessed your needs and paired programs for your operating system then you’ll have to narrow things further by assessing independent laboratory results, focusing mostly on detection and elimination scores.

Once you have identified your top two or three choices it is time to read detailed reviews that give an honest assessment of each program’s pros and cons, along with the comments left by other owners of the same software

Only then can you make an educated decision on which antivirus program will be ideal for you’re unique circumstance.