Back to Basics: How Does Antivirus Protect Our PCs?

How Antivirus Works

Just like soldiers protecting our borders from enemy attacks, antivirus software packages protect our PC(s) from various malware perpetrated by hackers. They run in the background, as we operate our computers, always on the lookout for any malware activity, and when they find one, they stop it from infiltrating our PC(s). So how do these antivirus software packages operate? Let’s see.

Antivirus Packages Learn Like Geeks

The cybersecurity landscape reshapes itself every day. New malware evolves, pushing the old ones into the closet. Therefore the first and foremost thing antivirus packages do is keep themselves abreast of the malware which is evolving out there. This is what appears as ‘antivirus updates’ on your screen. This is the software’s way of telling you that it is equipping itself for fighting the latest malware out there.

Antivirus Packages Hunt Like Wolves

Once equipped with the knowledge about how to tackle the latest malware, antivirus packages put this knowledge to use. That is, they start scanning (or hunting) our PC(s) and search files for malware pattern which they earlier recorded in their memory while updating themselves online. If they find a match, the file in which the match was found will be quarantined for security purposes.

Time for Action: Malware Gets Terminated

Depending on your antivirus program’s settings, the file in which the malware was found will either be deleted directly or your permission will be sought before the action is taken. In both the cases, you gain control over the malware, which is a good thing.

Antivirus Scan Types: On Access and Full Time

There are several ways through which antivirus packages scan your PC(s). The most widely implemented (and therefore most popular) are on-access and full time. As the name suggests, on-access scanning is scanning run in the background on your computer, checking every file you open. This is also known as real-time scanning. Almost every antivirus package employs on access scan these days.

Whereas full-time scan is a “dedicated search for malware” during which users won’t be able to access your PC(s). This is useful when you first install an antivirus program to check whether there is any malware lying dormant on your computer. These are also useful when repairing an already-infected computer.

Heuristics and False Positives

A few years ago, antivirus products could only stop ‘previously-known’ malware. But technology has improved now and many of the modern-day antivirus products come equipped with what is known as ‘heuristics analysis’ – the ability of antivirus to tackle even a previously unknown malware through experience and by employing some decision-making. Unfortunately, heuristics leads to a lot of ‘false positives’, mainly because of the guesswork involved.

Detection Rates Matter

When it comes to selecting antivirus packages, detection rates do matter. And you can find out more about this online. Therefore by sifting through vital statistics like the features offered and detection rates, you will be able to narrow down on the antivirus of your choice. Remember, a good antivirus is an antivirus which can stand the test of time and battles evolving malware.

Kevin Jones114 Posts

Kevin has been into researching and writing about network security for almost two decades, earning a reputation as one of the finest among cyber experts.

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