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Antivirus protects against the malicious software (malware) that threatens computers and laptops and the data stored on them. It’s a key component of a cybersecurity strategy that includes firewall protection, password management and encryption tools.

Malware can steal money, access private data, damage servers and wreak havoc in other ways. It’s why antivirus is so important and must be kept up-to-date.

It’s also why it’s so important to choose the right antivirus solution for your needs and budget. Look for a program that provides regular antivirus software updates. It should be able to detect all types of files and elements that could be infected with malware, including viruses, spyware, worms, Trojan horses and more. It should also be able to scan and protect possible entry points, like email, FTP, the internet and more.

Most antivirus programs use a variety of techniques to find and eradicate cyberthreats. A common one is signature detection, which involves scanning directories and individual files against a list of known malware codes. These codes are regularly updated, and new infections are constantly being made — so it’s essential to keep the antivirus database current.

Many programs also offer cloud analysis, which uses the power of global intelligence to find and stop emerging threats. This method uses sandboxing, behavioral analysis and machine learning to spot sketchy behavior that indicates an infection. If you’re shopping for an antivirus program, check its detection rate against controlled tests to get a sense of how well it performs.