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Antivirus software identifies, detects, and removes malware from computers or laptops. It’s designed to protect against cyber threats like viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, rootkits, adware, phishing attacks and spam attacks.

Most antivirus programs are available as a free trial with a six-month or yearly subscription afterward. Viruses, hacker activities and other online threats are constantly evolving, so it’s important to have a program that updates frequently with the latest malware information.

Aside from the detection and removal of malware, there are several other features that many antivirus programs offer. These include the ability to block access to websites known to contain harmful malware; the scanning of external devices, such as USB adapters and hard drives, for infections; and a password protection that prevents malware from cracking or stealing passwords.

Despite the fact that many antivirus programs use a variety of detection methods, most focus on three main areas:

Signatures are used to match files and programs to existing malware definitions in a database. Whenever a new file or program is detected, the virus program will flag it and warn users that it may be a threat. Viruses, however, are constantly changing their characteristics and behaviors, so it’s important for modern antivirus programs to also utilize heuristic analysis techniques.

Most antivirus programs also feature a dark web scanning function that can identify data leaks from compromised systems and alert users when their personal or business data appears on the leaked “dark web”. This can help people to monitor their identity and protect their online accounts.