What Is Antivirus and Why Do You Need It?
Antivirus is software designed to search, detect, prevent and remove malicious code (otherwise known as malware) from computers and mobile devices. It is one of the most critical preventative layers of cybersecurity that all devices should have in place.
Viruses, worms and other types of harmful software can cause damage to a computer or network, steal data, disable systems or even take control of an entire device or network. Antivirus programs provide real-time monitoring of your system to identify potential threats and respond immediately, before they have a chance to do any harm.
Today’s viruses (an umbrella term that encompasses malware) change appearance and coding to avoid detection by older definition-based antivirus software, so newer antivirus programs are using more sophisticated methods of spotting infections. Some use signature-based detection, where a list of malware is published and antivirus software looks for the specific code of a new infection against that list.
Other forms of antivirus are behavior-based, which watches what a program does and makes judgements about whether it is benign or malicious. This type of software can be more accurate than the signature-based approaches, but it does slow down system performance as it has to constantly watch and analyze programs.
Antivirus programs also scan for and prevent viruses from being transferred to a computer via external devices such as USB drives or CDs. Many offer protection against malware that can hide within an app, and some will monitor suspicious activity and alert you to any changes to your passwords. Some have parental controls, which allow parents to monitor and restrict kids’ online activity.