What Is Antivirus?
Antivirus (AV) is a program that scans for and detects software or hardware viruses, which are malicious programs designed to steal or otherwise harm your devices, computer systems and data. Viruses and other malware are constantly being created and distributed by hackers, making antivirus tools essential for keeping your device and data safe from cyber-threats.
Antivirus software typically uses a combination of methods to detect and stop malware infections. Some older antivirus programs rely on a database of known signatures to identify malware; modern AV software often also uses heuristic detection, which looks for parts or types of malware or patterns that are similar to existing viruses; and cloud analysis, which sends suspected files to the antivirus vendor’s servers for further examination.
In addition to scanning files, a good antivirus program will often also scan web pages and URLs in order to keep you from visiting websites or clicking on links that may contain dangerous viruses. Many antivirus programs also offer other features such as identity theft protection, parental controls and secure browsing, although these extras can usually be purchased for an additional fee.
Because there are so many new and different variations of viruses appearing all the time, it’s almost impossible for any antivirus program to catch all possible variants without constant updates. Some AV programs provide automated update services, while others require users to manually download and install updates. Still, most reputable antivirus vendors will offer some form of update service as part of their product offerings.