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Antivirus is a program that scans for and helps eradicate computer viruses and other malware. These malicious programs are designed to access personal information and devices to steal, damage or disrupt operations. Viruses can infect computers and other digital devices through downloaded files, links or corrupted apps. Antivirus software is a vital part of your system security strategy.

Modern antivirus programs use behavior-based detection in addition to signature analysis, which compares the fingerprint of a malware file to a database of known threats. Behavior-based detection looks for files that can make changes without permission and any suspicious behavior that may indicate a new or unknown threat.

Some vendors offer sandbox analysis, which runs a suspicious file or program in a virtual sandbox environment to check how it behaves before permitting it to enter the real system. This can help reduce false positives, as antivirus programs will only allow programs to run in the real system if they’ve passed the sandbox test.

Today’s households and businesses often have a number of different systems in place, with multiple users connecting to the internet via PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets. Multidevice support is a common feature in midrange and premium antivirus packages, ensuring that all the devices under one umbrella are protected with a single license and antivirus program.

Many antivirus programs provide in-app guides, tooltips and video tutorials to assist users with various features and functionalities. This helps the software feel less intimidating for beginners and makes it easier to learn how to operate advanced security settings. Antivirus programs should also have a light system impact, so they don’t degrade performance or slow down your device.