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Antivirus is a computer program that can detect and remove malicious software on your device, including viruses. Viruses are malicious software designed to damage your system and data, or even encrypt your files so that they’re unreadable. Malware can also be spread through email attachments or USB drives, and through dubious websites.

How antivirus works

Anti-malware protects against more complex infectious threats like worms, trojans and spyware. These types of threats need to be analyzed and detected more thoroughly than virus-based malware.

There are three main detection methods used by antivirus software: specific, generic, and heuristic. These all use a database of file signatures that are updated regularly to reflect new malware patterns.

When a file is detected, it is quarantined or deleted. It may also be blocked from accessing certain programs or files.

The most tried and tested method is signature-based detection, which looks for the digital code of a known virus. Upon detection, it is added to a local or cloud-based signature database.

Modern antivirus products often incorporate cloud-based malware analysis, which is a more effective way to detect and block malware that’s rapidly developing. This method uses a database of malware files and programs that have been identified by the antivirus vendor’s labs, and it can update this database on the fly so that the latest malware can be spotted.

Some antivirus packages include other internet security features, such as a firewall, phishing protection, a virtual private network (VPN), a password manager, parental controls, and other useful tools for keeping you safe online. However, many of these extras aren’t well-designed or effective, so it’s important to choose a product that provides quality security for the price.