Antivirus software is designed to find known viruses and oftentimes other malware such as Ransomware, Trojan Horses, worms, spyware, adware, etc., that can have a detrimental impact to the user or device.
Antivirus programs provide a way to protect against known threats. The effectiveness of an antivirus program is heavily dependent on how often it is updated. Therefore, it is important to have the antivirus program scheduled to update daily. Most antivirus programs rely on a library or database of known viruses that they use to compare with programs on a user’s device. If a match is found, the malicious program will either be deleted or placed into a quarantine area from which a user can decide to restore or delete the program manually.
One limitation of traditional antivirus programs is that they only provide protection against known threats. Therefore, if someone cooks up new malicious code, an antivirus program may fail to detect it when a scan is done. Users should not consider an antivirus program to be universal protection against all viruses and malware. Instead, users should consider an antivirus program to be one part of a comprehensive online security hygiene regimen. Security experts refer to this aspect of information security as Endpoint Protection.
There are some antivirus manufacturers that are incorporating predictive analysis and artificial intelligence into their antivirus software to be able to detect new malicious programs. They focus on detecting malicious software based on what it does, as opposed to whether it exists in a library or dictionary. While we cannot recommend one antivirus program over another, we encourage users to do independent research to find which antivirus program will work best for them.
Have you ever downloaded a file, opened it and been a victim of excessive pop-ups thereafter? Chances are the file installed an adware program on your computer when you opened it. An antivirus program could have stopped this if:
- The malicious software was known to the antivirus company.
- The antivirus program was up to date.
This example showcases the strengths and weaknesses of antivirus programs. They are very efficient at what they do, but they will only protect against malicious programs that are known, and only if kept updated. The good news is, there are countless types of malicious software that antivirus companies know about, and they are becoming more and more efficient at discovering new varieties every day.
We recommend that users take several steps to avoid infection by a virus or malware.
- The first step a user must make is to decide which antivirus program will be best for them. There are many free and paid versions of antivirus programs available. We encourage users to examine trusted sources or reviews of different antivirus programs.
- When installing the antivirus program, it is best to set up scheduled updates. The antivirus program will usually prompt you during the setup process to schedule a certain time or frequency for updates. We recommend a daily update at a time when your computer will be on but not in use. It is also a good idea to have a thorough first scan to remove any viruses or malware that may already be on the device.
- Ensure scans are performed at regular intervals. We recommend daily scans at a time when you are not using the device.
- If you are using a paid antivirus program, it is important to ensure the subscription is renewed to avoid gaps in coverage.
- Finally, be careful what sites you visit. All an attacker needs is for you to land on their dirty page. Visit only reputable sites.
With an antivirus program configured with regular updates and scans, users should feel safe from known threats. Antivirus programs are a key part to a user’s total cybersecurity hygiene practice.