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Antivirus software is designed to protect your computer against a constant barrage of ever-evolving malware threats. They can come from email attachments, USB drives, or websites.

Viruses are harmful software programs that can damage or take control of your device, prevent you from accessing data or even steal your identity. They also can spread to other devices and cause other insidious problems.

The most common type of antivirus is signature-based, which analyzes a virus’s digital code or “fingerprint.” Once the antivirus software recognizes a particular virus’s fingerprint, it will quarantine or delete it.

Another common method of detection is heuristic analysis, which looks for suspicious traits in a file that does not match any known virus signatures. Then, the antivirus software adds that new threat information to its database of file signatures for future scanning.

Today’s malware is smarter than ever, changing its appearance quickly to avoid detection by older, definition-based antivirus tools. To detect this, antivirus vendors have developed heuristics and machine learning technologies that spot new threats by identifying sketchy behavior.

Malware is an umbrella term that encompasses viruses, worms, Trojans, adware and other malicious software that can harm your device or access sensitive data. The best antivirus is designed to defend your device against all threats at all stages of the attack chain – preventing, scanning and detecting viruses on your computer then remove, quarantine, block or flag them as threats.

The most effective antivirus solutions are constantly updating their lists of known threats and using heuristics, AI, and ML to spot new threats. It’s important to choose a product that automatically receives these updates and is easy to use.