Computers were created to help increase efficiency and productivity. However, the cost to maintain them is a growing challenge and may require substantial amounts of time and money to secure valuable data from different threats.
The maintenance cost includes the expenses for preventative measures against the danger of losing essential data, the danger of external sources hacking into a computer system, and the danger of viruses or internal threats to the computer. To counter these threats, companies have created anti-virus software programs to help prevent viruses, spyware, Trojan horses, worms, and other forms of malware.
These applications also provide additional defense for the computer and computer user. It is vital to have some form of anti-virus protection installed on your computer.
Here are a couple additional tips to make sure your system is secure:
- Frequently update your anti-virus application(s) for new versions and to make sure new threats can be detected, prevented, and/or removed
- Frequently scan your system for threats or intrusions
As always, having multiple layers of protection is recommended as well.
How Do Anti-Virus Programs Work?
Anti-virus applications provide protection using a number of different methods.
Here are four of the more common methods that anti-virus programs use to protect your system.
Real-time protection – This is one of the most important forms of protection. It basically ensures that whenever you open a particular file or folder, the location or file is scanned for viruses and potential threats. Files could be opened manually by the user, or as part of another application or install process running on the computer. It is strongly recommended to enable real-time protection if the setting is available. Your documents are constantly scanned for any kind of virus and you are warned immediately if a threat is detected. Additionally, the real-time protection will be at its best when new programs or files are downloaded. The majority of viruses occur after a file is downloaded or installed, so real-time protection scanning is vital for added security.
- Signature-based detection – This is perhaps one of the core forms of software protection. It consists of different packages and controls against viruses and helps prevent a user’s computer from destruction. Signature-based detection works by checking the documents and files on the computer and cross-referencing them with the original code signatures that had been entered as the file was created. By using this form of detection, the anti-virus software constantly updates the code signatures in the computer so that any drastic modification to the system can be avoided when possible. This type of detection may also allow for the destruction of malicious files or code before it becomes a severe issue that may infect the entire computer.
Heuristic approach – In order to recognize suspicious activity within a computer, a heuristic-based detection method uses multiple scanning techniques. The heuristic model will perform file emulation, file analysis, and generic signature detection checks. During file emulation, the anti-virus software will implement controls on the files that are operated in the computer system. Other terms for this method of testing include “sandbox testing technique” or the “dynamic scanning method”. During file analysis, the application will examine the file, file structure, and associated files. If inconsistencies are noticed, the file is marked as a suspicious one and is either flagged for additional scanning, archived, or deleted. Under the generic signature detection, the heuristics model will analyze various locations with greater potential for virus or malware infections. It uses the previously detected viruses to serve as the basis for detecting future viruses.
Rootkit Detection – Rootkit infections are difficult to detect and a time-consuming infection to remove as well. Certain anti-virus applications have additional detection methods, including the ability to detect and prevent rootkit infections.
It is important to make sure the anti-virus program installed on your computer has as many detection and prevention methods as possible.
Possible Downsides Associated with Anti-Virus Programs
Unfortunately, there is no single process that comes without its disadvantages or downsides when it comes to scanning and protecting your computer.
- Fake viruses – One of the more common methods for spreading viruses and malware is the “rogue computer virus”, which may present itself as a pop-up or advertisement on a website, or an installed application on the computer itself. A rogue virus was created to scare consumers (also called ‘scareware’) into downloading and installing an application that may artificially create errors. The application is then locked and may display a variety of error messages until it is purchased.
- Compatibility issues – Certain anti-virus programs have gained a reputation for being extremely effective. Unfortunately, these programs have specific compatibility requirements that may or may not allow it to properly install and run on your computer.
- Cost – One of the biggest costs associated with anti-virus software, is the requirement for the virus definitions (specific viruses and types of viruses that it needs to protect against) to be updated monthly, weekly, and even daily. The reason these applications can flag certain files is because of the extensive databases of stored file information that allows the programs to cross check and verify the authenticity (or lack thereof) of the files on your computer.
- Limited protection – Free versions of some programs (HouseCall, AVG Free, McAfee, and others) only provide limited protection, requiring payment for the full version and comprehensive scans. While it may be frustrating at times, the paid versions provide additional features and may help make your computer more secure.
The best way to protect your computer is to make sure you have an updated anti-virus program installed and running on your computer. It is highly suggested to utilize a proactive approach when dealing with personal and information security.
Recommended Software To Use In Addition To An Anti-Virus Program
While your computer should be running an anti-virus program, these other types of applications can be used to provide further protection from threats and information loss.
- Anti-Malware Software – Similar to anti-virus programs, malware scanners can search files and folders for other malicious files and code. If you only run two kinds of protection software on your computer, make sure one is a virus scanner, and the other is a malware scanner.
- Optimization Software – Most computer users could benefit from an optimization application. The way they work is by scanning the computer system as a whole, including the registry, and verifying the integrity of files and registry entries. A reputable registry program can provide yet another level of protection when combined with anti-virus and anti-malware programs.
- Privacy and Security Software – Some virus scanners have the ability to protect your Internet browser and searches. However, having a dedicated privacy/security program may be more effective. Specialized security programs can also provide you with the ability to set different parental controls, monitor Facebook, and provide additional threat monitoring.
It is vital to have various levels of protection when dealing with your private information. While you probably should not have 10 different virus and malware scanners running, having one of each will provide you with additional security, and possibly prevent threats or secure information from being lost, destroyed, and stolen.
Top 3 Recommended Anti-Virus Programs
- Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus
- Anti-Virus PLUS
- AVG Free
If you are looking for more information on the best anti-virus program to use, be sure to see all our reviews.