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Antivirus is a type of computer security software that is designed to search, detect, prevent and remove viruses from your system. It also protects against other harmful software including worms and adware.

Most antivirus programs operate in the background once installed, providing real-time protection against virus attacks. These programs are designed to proactively search for and eliminate malware from your system, allowing you to focus on your work.

Initially, antivirus programs used signature-based detection to flag malicious software. This means that each file has a digital thumbprint, which the antivirus software compares against stored data to determine whether it is dangerous.

Since new malware is being created every day, the need for updated virus signatures is critical. Most antivirus solutions refresh their infection databases several times a day to ensure they have the most recent virus codes available.

Another key aspect of malware detection is heuristic analysis, which complements signature-based detection. Heuristic analysis uses a trial-and-error approach to identify suspicious traits that don’t match known virus signatures.

Fortunately, antivirus vendors have responded to this challenge with sophisticated machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies. These methods enable antivirus programs to find new ways to identify malicious code and acclimate themselves to the constantly changing threat landscape. The result is more accurate detection of unknown threats. In addition, these tools are more scalable for high-availability deployments. For example, many of the most popular products offer centralized offloading for antivirus scanning, which reduces the number of CPU resources required to scan malware samples across multiple machines.