An Introduction to Antivirus Software

As our computer technology evolved, viruses became more of a problem. An antivirus program was developed to protect our computers from malicious codes from planting themselves within them. As time went on, we started being attacked by more threats, like malware, ransomware and even adware. Programs for computer protection exploded in the market as people began looking for something to keep their pc's safe. It wasn't always easy since most antivirus programs took up a lot of our computer's resources, which slowed down its performance.

Nowadays, our antivirus programs can handle just about any threat thrown at our computers, without using up a ton of resources to do so. However, it has to be updated as often as possible to do the job properly. Failure to update it once, and we could be at risk of something taking control of our important files, or gaining access to our personal information. We also have a plethora of software choices available to us, so deciding on which one to use is more difficult than it used to be. Plus, we have free program options as well as ones we need to pay for to use.

Antivirus Software: How do they work?

An antivirus program, installed on your Windows-based computer, will run in the background while you use your pc. It will scan the files you open, looking for any suspicious codes embedded within that could be flagged as a virus or other threat. If it comes to a malicious computer bug, it may prevent you from opening the file, which would release the virus to wreak havoc. To fix it, the virus would have to be quarantined and then removed by the antivirus program.

Some software programs can scan email attachments for any threats before you open them. Many trojans and worms are stopped in their tracks by a security program, like this, not letting them loose to take control of your email account.

As an extra security measure, these programs will have a scan that you can run, periodically. It will peek into all your files checking to see if something malicious has found its way onto your computer. For those virus and other threats it catches, it will remove them promptly, preventing them from causing any damage or from spreading to other pc's.

If a computer gets infected, the antivirus program can still remove it, most of the time, but it becomes more difficult to do. Viruses, malware and other threats can spread malicious code to several different places on your pc. You run the risk of having a trace of one remaining. The virus could still cause damage, especially if it's embedded in your computer's registry keys. By staying behind in the registry, it would enable the virus to repair itself when the pc starts up again.

Antivirus Software: What Types of Antivirus Programs are There?

There are many different options for security programs, like an antivirus, out there when it comes to protecting your pc from computer bugs. Here are a few types you could run into when researching your options:

  • Signature-based- These will usually just scan your pc, looking for file signatures that match known viruses. Once they find them, they will quarantine them right away and remove them.

  • Real-time protection- These will protect as you use your computer, and will prevent virus attacks before they happen.

  • Rootkits- Some paid version of antivirus programs, offer a rootkit scan. If malware is hiding in your files or operating system, it can cause a lot of problems. A rootkit scan will scan deeply to see if anything is hiding where it shouldn't be.

  • Heuristic scan- Since malware is continually changing, scanners need to be on their toes. A heuristic scan will enable an antivirus software to match what they find on your pc to variants of malware that were already found through research.

  • Antispyware- These scans will spot the malicious files trying to implant or have already embedded themselves in your computer. Antispyware will keep them from getting any information about you.

Questions and Answers:

Here are some commonly asked questions, and their answers to help you understand antivirus software better and to choose the right program for your situation.

Q. Do I need to pay for an antivirus program? Is it better than a free version?

A. Either one could be a good option. It depends on what you are using your computer for, or what kind of protection you want. If you occasionally use your pc, or laptop, to browse the internet and check your email, a free version is just fine. If you use the internet quite a bit and download all sorts of things, you might consider a paid version. Heavy internet use, should have one that will protect you while you're surfing and prevent problems before they occur. Some free versions will do this as well, so be sure to check what each one offers.

Q. How do I know if my pc has a virus or other malicious bug?

A. Any number of things can occur when your computer has a virus. It will start acting strangely. Programs will open up that you didn't open yourself. Files will not open that had no problem opening before. Strange data, which you never downloaded, will show up, all of a sudden. Your computer is acting strangely, and not the way it should. When any of these things happen, a virus scan would be in order to see if anything has found its way into your files.

Q. I see some antivirus programs also have spyware scanners. Do I need that?

A. Spyware is a malicious file planted on a computer without the pc owner's knowledge. The file is intended to gather specific bits of information about the user of the machine. Some look for browsing data, while others look for personal information like passwords or credit card numbers. If you choose an antivirus program and it comes with a spyware scanner, consider it a bonus. Scanning for spyware will help protect you from malicious criminals gaining access to your money or committing identity theft.

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