In our digital age, protecting your devices from harmful software is essential. Antivirus software acts as a shield, safeguarding your computer from viruses, malware, and other threats. But with so many options available, choosing the right one can be confusing. This article delves into the world of antivirus software, explaining its purpose, different types, and crucial factors to consider when making your choice.

Key Takeaways

  • Antivirus software protects your computer from viruses, malware, and other online threats.
  • Different types of antivirus software cater to specific needs and budgets.
  • Keeping your software up-to-date and practicing safe browsing habits are crucial for optimal protection.

Q: What is antivirus software and why do you need it?

A: Antivirus software is a security program designed to protect your computer from malicious software, such as viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and ransomware. It works by scanning your system for known threats and removing or quarantining them. In today’s digital landscape, where cyberattacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, having a reliable antivirus program is essential for safeguarding your valuable data and ensuring the smooth operation of your device.

Sadly, the world we live in is not perfect.

Gone are the mythical days of ‘leaving your door open when you went out.’

A computer without antivirus is like leaving your doors and windows open when you leave your home.

Internet security is often overlooked. Many people believe it will “never happen to them”.

In short, you would never do it.

So, let us make sure the operating system on our computer is sufficiently robust to defend against any malicious viruses.

So What Is A Computer Virus And What Should We Be On The Alert For?

Well for anybody reading who has lived through the nightmare of a computer virus it is just that – a nightmare!

Technically, a computer virus is a form of malware, which is a file or program that’s harmful to computers. When executed or opened it begins to modify other computer programs and inserting its own code. It’s the same as a biological virus infecting cells in the body. When the computer virus succeeds, the affected areas are then said to be “infected”.

The good news? (Yes, there is some to be had!)

Not all computer viruses are destructive, but they are all evasive and a scourge best kept well away.

Think of a common cold. A persistently nasty strain of cold.

You wish to function normally and achieve your daily goals, but you are hampered continuously and left feeling lethargic, running on empty.

That’s the work of even the most innocuous of viruses. And yet the comparison does end there. Whereas the symptoms of a cold can be elevated by some much-needed R and R, a computer virus will not mend itself.

To rid yourself of a pesky virus you’ll need some antivirus security, more of which we shall come too a little later.

A mouse hovering over the 'security' button

So How Does A Computer Virus Worm Itself Into My Machine?

Many, many ways. But usually via our daily web activities like:

  • Sharing music, files, or photographs with other users
  • Visiting an infected website
  • Opening spam email or infected email attachments
  • Downloading free games, other software
  • Media players, such as Flash
  • Installing mainstream software applications

How Will I Know If A Computer Virus Has Infected My Machine?

Common things to look out for are:

  • Slow computer performance
  • Unexplained data loss
  • Frequent computer crashes
  • Erratic computer behaviour

What are the different types of viruses?

Trojan Horse

One of the most well-known ways is the Trojan Horse virus. If you know the Greek myth, then this works in a similar way to the wooden horse. The virus hides behind something seemingly innocent, like downloading a program or file. It then jumps out when you open the file.

Space Filler Virus

A space filler or cavity viruses can attempt to fill in the blank areas in a file. Every time a program launches, the virus creeps into it. After a while, the virus will fill up the computer to the point it no longer boots.

Boot Sector Viruses

Boot sector viruses usually run from removable storage. They came from the days when computers booted from floppy disks. While mostly obsolete now, viruses can still be spread through this method.

Direct Action Virus

Direct action viruses work by attaching itself to files like EXE files, and activate when the user executes the file. Most of the time these types of viruses aren’t completely destructive, and only affects a few files.

Overwrite Virus

Overwrite viruses are a pain in the neck. They will delete any file they infect, including programs.

So, What Can I Do To Defend Myself?

To keep our bodies fit and healthy, we eat well and partake in some form of exercise.

To mirror that for your computer you should install an antivirus program.

Antivirus software is a computer program used to prevent, detect, and remove malware. It’s sometimes known as anti‐malware software.

Many computers will come with built-in virus protection. These programs include Windows Defender and usually a free trial of Norton Antivirus.

Here are some handy tips to help you keep safe and enjoy the World Wide Web safely:

  • Use a professional antivirus protection
  • Keep all antivirus software up‐to‐date
  • Use a hardware firewall
  • Don’t open messages or attachments from unknown senders
  • Keep your operating system up to date while paying attention to news about update flaws
  • Check your browser security settings and keep all security settings turned on
  • Avoid suspicious websites, and trust your gut if something doesn’t feel right
  • Only download files from sites trusted sources, and double-check if you aren’t sure
  • Carefully research free software or files before downloading them
  • Immediately delete spam or suspicious messages

As we said before, an unprotected computer is like laying down a welcome mat at for computer viruses.

So, What Are My Options?

Luckily, there are many options available.

Anti-virus software is an excellent line of defence to protect your computer. There’s a huge amount of anti-virus software around so doing your research will be necessary.

F-Secure anti-virus software is a great software which helps protect your website from all kinds of viruses.

While free antivirus downloads are available, you should thoroughly research your options before using them. Use a trusted website, such as Which? to determine if it’s the right direction for you. Many premium anti-virus companies do offer free versions of their software so you can try before you buy.

Businesses should always pay for network security software, as they run the risk of a GDPR fine if they do not keep their networks protected.

Firewalls add an additional layer of security. They monitor Internet traffic in and out of your network. Every time your computer requests a webpage, a data packet is sent from your computer to your router then to your modem. The data packet goes through to the server where the web page is and brings back the information. For larger companies, WatchGuard Security offers fully integrated firewalls.

A firewall checks the data packets on the way in, to make sure that the file is secure.

They also hide your PC from online scammers looking for easy targets.

Firewalls can come in software or hardware variations.

Like a gladiator, they are your best friend! “In this life or the next!” Yep, we’ve gone full Gladiator!

How Does Antivirus Software Discover Viruses?

Antivirus companies use a variety of techniques to learn how viruses work. Each company uses a different approach or a mixture of a few.

Signature‐Based Detection

Signature‐based detection identifies malicious code and threats by looking for patterns in the code or makeup of the virus.

This helps to identify known viruses, but means it is weak against any new ones.

Sandbox Detection

Sandboxes are a secured space which tests if a file is malicious by testing its behaviour. The sandbox allows the virus to perform all of its operations and records the resulting behaviour.

However, some viruses are learning to evade sandboxes. Some viruses will shut down if they encounter a sandbox-like environment. Other viruses will wait for a trigger that can only be performed by humans, such as mouse clicks.

Data Mining techniques

Data Mining can be used to find information, patterns and data about viruses. Data mining can use huge amounts of numbers and data sources to work out the behaviour of a virus. This can work hand in hand with other techniques.

Heuristic Analysis

Antivirus programs employ heuristic analysis to find previously unknown computer viruses or to detect new variants of known viruses.

Heuristics uses problem-solving techniques, such as rules and best guesses to work out if a newly identified virus is, in fact, a virus.

Rootkit Detection

Rootkits are worms and bots that are designed to hide in plain sight, and often in Administrator only areas of computers. Because of this, rootkits can often twist software to make it think that the virus is in-fact harmless.  Rootkit detection is designed to find these hard-to-discover viruses, and get rid of them, without recking your actual computer.

So hopefully this small overview of why a great antivirus is so important for a hassle-free computer life has helped. It may have posed more questions. Not to worry. Any queries and our great team are on hand to answer anything and point you in the right direction.