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Antivirus is software that’s designed to search for, detect, and remove computer viruses or malware, such as ransomware, adware, worms, and Trojan horses. This type of program is a critical tool for protecting all devices — from laptops and desktops to mobile phones, tablets, and wearables.

A good antivirus will protect against both existing and new threats. To do this, it relies on an extensive list of known malware — which is updated regularly (a good reason to choose a product that updates itself automatically rather than manually). It also uses technologies that can spot entirely new and evasive threats, such as sandbox analysis, machine learning, behavioral detection, and advanced threat prevention engines.

As a result, the best antivirus programs tend to have high detection rates in controlled tests. They’ll also have tools for removing or quarantining detected threats. When choosing an antivirus, look for one that provides a variety of these features and includes support for multiple operating systems.

Some programs also feature other layers of security, such as a firewall, that help block attacks that could make it through an antivirus program. These include phishing schemes, insecure websites, fake browser extensions, and more. This helps to ensure that, even if a cybercriminal finds a chink in your cybersecurity defenses, they won’t have the ability to steal personal information, compromise your device or network, and damage your reputation. As cybercriminals become more savvy, it’s important to have multiple layers of protection in place to keep your devices, data, and privacy safe.