What is a Virus
To understand what anti-virus software is, we must first have an understanding of what a computer virus is and how they threaten our privacy. The main goal of antivirus software is to counter virus programs. At the core, a virus is nothing more than a program which continuously duplicates itself on a person's system. These programs typically either allow an unwanted user to gain access to the affected system or performs some unwanted action on the affected system. As such, viruses are almost always used for nefarious reasons by malicious programs, and as I've mentioned before; antivirus software came about to counter such programs.
Why Do You Need Antivirus Software?
In today's world, the Internet is filled with countless nefarious actors many of which are constantly trying to gain unwanted access to some unsuspecting person's machine or personal information. To that end, while there exist some preventative measures a person can take against such people and their malicious programs, they are more in the way of tips and good habits for users of the internet to adopt. An antivirus software, however, can come packaged together as both a preventative measure and a cure for these problems. These programs are intelligent enough to identify suspicious websites and programs that have questionable SSL certificates, are untrusted, or suspicious programs and warn visitors of these potential threats before they use or download them. In scenarios that the user still chooses to utilize the questionable software or website, these software suites are also capable of scanning a computer in great detail; capturing every single file and process, in search of suspicious activity on the machine. When it finds such programs, it then offers users an option to quarantine these programs, in an attempt to stop them from duplicating themselves (like a virus would) and to then cleanse/remove the afflicted files from the system entirely.
How does Antivirus Software Work?
Typically, these programs function by maintaining a library of known malware definitions and their patterns. Through this means, the programs know exactly what to search for when performing a scan through a user's system and then they flag it as a potential threat to the system to be quarantined and finally, removed. It is a simple way of working but it has proven to be effective even with how malware programmers have evolved their virus software to change their appearance over time. This is because the antivirus software's database is usually updated regularly which is why some antiviruses have since switched to keeping these databases on the cloud to easily maintain; although, they are still some which will prompt their user to update their antivirus' malware definitions database; which is always a good thing for a user to do as often as possible. As such, it is no understatement to say that a quality antivirus is determined by the depth and reliability of its malware definitions database.
Some great antiviruses which come highly recommended for their reliability include McAfee, Norton, Webroot, Bitdefender, and Kaspersky to name a few. Each of these does come with a price-tag attached to them unlike the free-versions of Avast, Malwarebytes, and AVG. However, they are guaranteed to have great reliability and a full feature-set as compared to the free counterparts.
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