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Antivirus is software that helps prevent, scan and remove viruses from your computer and laptop. Viruses are a form of malware (malicious software) that can do things like steal sensitive information, monitor system activity and slow device performance. Whether they’re hidden in a suspicious attachment on an email or in a pop-up ad on a malicious website, viruses are a constant threat to our devices.

Antivirus programs detect malware by checking the files and programs in your system against a database of known virus threats. They use a variety of methods to do this, including specific detection that looks for known malware; generic detection, which looks for parts or patterns common to multiple virus families; and heuristic detection, which scans the code for suspicious structures. If a program or file is detected as containing malware, antivirus programs typically quarantine it, mark it for deletion or delete it entirely.

The most effective antivirus software is constantly updating its databases and scanning algorithms to stay ahead of the latest cyberthreats. In addition, the best antivirus programs offer multiple layers of protection, including web filtering, a firewall and behavior-based detection that analyzes the actions of programs to infer their potential danger.

Today, we’re also seeing a number of antivirus products that go beyond traditional virus protection by monitoring your personal data for signs it’s been leaked on the dark web and alerting you when criminals try to sell your passwords or other information. Regardless of what antivirus software you choose, it’s important to make sure it works reliably and doesn’t hinder the performance of your device.