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The best antivirus software identifies and removes existing malware, and is designed to keep your computer running efficiently and smoothly. It will also protect you from new threats that may arise.

There are three basic types of antivirus protection: signature-based, heuristic-based, and behavior-based. Each type works differently. Signature-based protection uses a unique string of data called a “signature” to detect known malicious software. However, this is only one way to identify virus-ridden files.

Heuristic-based detection uses a set of algorithms to identify and flag known malware. A file with a similar code structure to a known malicious file is regarded as suspicious. Unlike signature-based protection, heuristic-based is effective in detecting viruses and worms that signature-based software cannot.

Viruses can cause serious damage to your computer. They can encrypt your data, causing it to become unreadable. Additionally, they can spy on you through your webcam and monitor your personal accounts. These malicious programs can cost the global economy billions of dollars each year.

Most antivirus software runs in the background. When it’s time to update, the program will automatically check for updates. Some products offer a built-in VPN that will provide identity theft protection.

While the best antivirus software isn’t free, there are plenty of alternatives. Many companies offer discounts for multiyear contracts. Whether you prefer a cloud-based solution, or a more traditional hardware and network firewall, a comprehensive security solution will give you the protection you need.

You can download antivirus programs from the App Store or Microsoft Store. Some companies even offer free versions.