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Antivirus software is a must for anyone connecting to the Internet. It’s the best way to prevent malware infections and protect your personal data and PC performance. But how does it work?

Traditional antivirus programs use multiple methods to identify malware on your computer. The first, signature-based detection, relies on a database of file signatures to flag malicious code. The program looks for specific strings of information that are characteristic of a virus and matches it against known signatures.

Newer methods like heuristics and sandbox analysis can help detect viruses that haven’t been specifically tagged in a database, or existing viruses that have been disguised to avoid detection. However, these methods can also produce false-positives, when the antivirus software misidentifies a legitimate program as a virus.

Fortunately, next-gen antivirus solutions combine heuristics, machine learning and sandboxing to provide more comprehensive protection from today’s most sophisticated attacks. These technologies can identify phishing exploits, advanced persistent threats, and other techniques that older antivirus programs miss. As a result, they can stop nearly 95 percent of all types of malware, including zero-day attacks. And because they’re cloud-based, they can automatically update with the latest global intelligence to protect against the most dangerous threats. In addition, they can alert you (through a pop-up or dialog box) when a new type of malware is detected, and remove it immediately or upon your request. Some programs will also scan directories, files or the entire system/device for malware activity and clean them automatically.