How Does Antivirus Software Protect My Computer?

July 22, 2020

Antivirus software has been around for a couple decades. In fact, the first versions of this software can be traced back to the 1980s. Obviously, antivirus software has come a long way since its inception. Hackers have gotten smarter and craftier, which is why antivirus software is now more complex and effective than ever before.

What Is A Computer Virus?

But how does antivirus protection work?

In order to understand that, you first need to understand how a computer virus operates. Viruses operate very similarly to other computer programs. However, the intent behind viruses is to harm, harvest, capture, or destroy important data. 

Each virus contains something called a signature. Essentially a signature is the unique feature that sets the virus apart from other programs on your computer.

This signature is actually what allows antivirus software to function. This type of software starts by scanning files, programs, and applications on your computer. Then, the antivirus software compares this information with code that gets stored in your computer’s database. If your software finds code that is identical to a known piece of malware in your database, that code is flagged as malware and is then gets removed from your computer.

New viruses are usually derivatives of old viruses, which means they might share code that is easily identifiable. Antivirus software has to be consistently updated in order to catch any new strain of computer viruses that pop up.

Viruses are stealthy. Do you remember the Target incident in 2014 when hackers siphoned 56-million credit card numbers from Target’s database?

No one knew what was happening until months later. As in the Target example, viruses can attach onto legitimate files like email attachments or other harmless downloads. You might not even know a virus has infiltrated your system until it’s too late.

This is why it’s imperative to have antivirus software constantly running in the background, in order to protect your information and sensitive data from potential breaches.

How Does Antivirus Software Detect Viruses On My Computer?

Usually, antivirus software utilizes three types of scanning processes to find potential security breaches:

Specific Detection—this type of scanning process searches your computer for known pieces of malware that contain specific and recognizable characteristics.

Generic Detection-– this scanning process looks for malware that is related to known malware by a common codebase.

Heuristic Detection-– this scanning process looks for unknown viruses by targeting suspicious behavior or file structures.

The Pressure Point Of Antivirus Software

A word of warning—antivirus software does not make you invincible. Hackers are very smart and getting smarter. While antivirus software is a worthwhile investment and will offer you protection, it does not mean you are exempt from any computer virus or malware.

You still need to be cautious when clicking on external links or opening suspicious emails. Don’t become so overly confident in your antivirus software that you ignore caution.

If you’re looking into antivirus software for your computer in order to protect yourself from potential network breaches, our computer doctors can help. Let us perform a security analysis on your computer—get some peace of mind by ensuring your information is safe! 

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