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Antivirus (AV) software is a critical baseline tool for MSPs and their clients against malicious files and cyberthreats. It’s one part of a full security suite, which includes everything from VPNs that safeguard privacy to password managers that protect login credentials. Together, they help defend against scams that steal personal information, ransomware that holds files hostage and other threats.

AV software typically runs in the background on client computers, making it a great choice for users who don’t want to interrupt their work with a pop-up alert every time a new threat is detected. Viruses, worms, trojan horses and spyware are just some of the types of malware that AV platforms can spot and block for their users.

The most common way to identify viruses is by using signature analysis, which compares the signature of a file or program against a database of known malicious code. More advanced programs use heuristic detection, which observes how a program behaves to determine whether it’s malicious. This can be helpful in identifying new viruses that haven’t been discovered yet, but it can also trigger false positives, which are when the program identifies legitimate programs as being malicious.

A good antivirus program will update its detection methods regularly, a process that’s facilitated by cloud-based analysis. This approach is more efficient than storing and updating an extensive list of file signatures, and it’s increasingly the method that cybersecurity pros prefer. This technique also has the added benefit of catching new threats before they can do any damage, as well as spotting old ones that have evolved over time.