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Antivirus is software that protects computers, laptops, smartphones and other devices from malicious or unwanted software. It can help prevent malware from stealing your data, encrypting it and making it inaccessible to you. It can also keep your device from becoming damaged by viruses, spyware or worms.

Viruses are malicious programs that can cause damage to a computer, mobile device or other devices, such as corrupting files, installing Trojan horses and phishing emails. They can also steal information and even take your computer offline.

The best antivirus programs will scan your PC, Mac or smartphone for malware and block it before it causes any damage to your devices. It will then either quarantine or remove it if it is found.

There are three main types of detection used by most AV programs: signature-based, heuristic, and behavioral. These methods work by looking for digital codes in file structures or a pattern of behavior that are similar to known threats.

New viruses and variants are created on a daily basis by hackers, and it is nearly impossible for any single antivirus program to catch them all. Therefore, modern AV solutions use cloud analysis to identify and track malware. This process is called machine learning and is a far more accurate way to detect as-yet unknown viruses. It uses the power of a network of cloud-connected databases to analyze and identify suspicious patterns. It can evolve and adjust much more quickly than human-curated approaches to malware protection.