How Do Antivirus Programs Work


Everybody knows that they need an antivirus program in order to protect their information. Most of us also know that there are many antivirus reviews around online that we can use to help us choose the best program. But few of us really understand how these programs work.

How Does an Antivirus Program Work?

The first thing this software does is to scan for viruses and to block scripts. This is known as “reactive scanning”, meaning that anything new that makes its way onto the computer is checked. It does this behind the scenes. At the same time, there is the “full system scan”, whereby the entire computer and every single file, new or old, is checked to see if there are suspicious files or codes on there. There are antivirus programs that block Java or ActiveX scripts, but not all of them do it. You need to make sur that your program does not slow down your computer too much, while at the same time recognizing most threats.

The second very important part of an antivirus scanner is its database. There is no point having a program if it doesn’t know what malware is out there. Ideally, daily updates will take place to make sure the program recognizes any new malicious files and codes. Sometimes, they use “heuristic analysis”, which means that if it doesn’t recognize a file as being malware, but it behaves like other pieces of malware, it will still block it. This is known as a “false positive”, but can be very important. You should also expect your scanner to perform automatic updates, so that you don’t have to worry about missing anything.

Not only should your scanner block malware, it should be able to remove it as well. Blocking and removing are two separate functions, however, and not all virus scanners are equipped to do both. Free antivirus programs in particular usually can only detect and block, but not remove. However, that is still better than nothing.

A few other features that can come in handy but are not included as standard are:

  • Ransomware protection, which means that you tell it what it should protect if you are facing a ransomware attack. Those files will be blocked and cannot be encrypted by the ransomware.
  • File shredder, which truly deletes programs. Anything you delete by putting it in your recycle bin and then emptying the recycle bin is actually still on your computer somewhere. With a file shredder, it is truly removed.
  • Firewall, which ensures any malicious traffic is detected before it can make an attack.
  • DNS protection.
  • System optimization.
  • Password managers.
  • Phishing protection.
  • Browser protection.

If you have read all the antivirus reviews, checked them against the above list of features, and found the one that you think is right for you, make sure you take the time to test it. Most programs will have a free trial to give you the opportunity to do just that. Do make sure you remove the trial or demo before installing a new scanner, or even the full version of the scanner.

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