How Does Antivirus Software Work?

In 2019, almost 450,000 new malware variants were identified. Countless of thousands have been created before that. Some have become outdated because the devices and systems they were designed to disrupt are no longer used. Unfortunately, many more pop up every day. You can avoid a lot of it by being careful online. And as for the rest, using antivirus software is your best bet.

What can malware do?

Millions of people suffer from different kinds of malware every year.

There’s spyware that steals people’s credentials and banking information by monitoring their actions online, taking over their webcams and microphones, tracking keyboard patterns, etc. Attackers then sell this data or use it to blackmail people and force them to pay in order to protect their personal information.

Some cybercriminals use ransomware to encrypt people’s data and demand they send money in exchange for the decryption key. Others are sneakier and secretly add your device to their zombie computer network (botnet). When their botnet is large enough, they use it to carry out massive spamming or DDoS attacks.

And then there are the general trojans, worms, adware, and viruses that wreak havoc on your device to the point where you need to delete everything and start afresh. Imagine not being able to load your computer without a bunch of pop-up ads flooding your screen. Looking for the solution online is impossible because your browser keeps redirecting you to websites filled with more ads. Many people get so frustrated they opt for a complete system reset, losing all their data in the process.

When you end up with malware on your device, it can be anywhere from annoying to downright disastrous. Using an antivirus can prevent it from happening in the first place. Read on to find out more.

What is antivirus software?

Antivirus software is designed to protect your device from malware infection as well as detect and remove malicious software that’s already rooted in your system. It’s an umbrella term for any security software designed to fight off all kinds of malware.

What does antivirus software do? It works by scanning your system and folders, looking for malicious software. If it finds any, it freezes it and informs you about it. Sometimes, the antivirus can just delete the threat, but users often need to get rid of it manually.

Some antivirus software will monitor all incoming and outgoing connections, looking for suspicious activity. If a program is using an unauthorized port for communication, you will be prompted to take action. The antivirus is also able to check every website you visit. If it’s known to contain and spread malware, you’ll be notified about it, or your access will be blocked altogether.

For the antivirus to work properly, you have to grant it a lot of permissions. This raises some concerns among users regarding their privacy when using this type of software. Before granting any permissions, you have to trust the provider, so thoroughly research the developers, read lots of reviews, and make sure you’re not risking your data.

Should you get an antivirus?

Getting an antivirus might seem like a no-brainer to a lot of people, especially old-school Windows users. However, according to Webtekno, 75% of computer users are not interested in third-party antivirus software. So, the security of all personal information depends solely on the security software embedded in the operating systems.

This line of thinking is not unreasonable. Windows 10 now comes with Windows Defender, and Macs are considered inherently safe from viruses. But while you might not need an antivirus on your device, you still need to be careful online.

  1. Don’t download software from fishy sites. In general, it’s best to stay away from free software if you are not familiar with it.

  2. Be careful with P2P sharing — most people end up with malware when they download files from a P2P sharing site.

  3. Don’t click on a link unless you’ve checked it carefully. Do you trust the person who sent it? Does it look genuine?

  4. Use other kinds of software to protect yourself online — a firewall, a VPN, or a password manager.

  5. Whatever you do, don’t download a free antivirus, as it will likely not work properly. Ironically, a lot of free antivirus software is malware in disguise, which people download, install, and grant complete access to their devices.

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Chad Hammond
Verified author
Chad loves traveling and technology. His global view and open-mindedness add interesting angles to various security topics. He has already traveled to over 80 countries and is not planning to stop any time soon.
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