What Is Antivirus Software? How It Can Protect Your Device

Viruses are a danger to anyone who uses the Internet. They can severely damage software and devices. Antivirus software programs are the best defense against a computer virus and many other kinds of malware. If you’re looking to protect your device and your data, read on to understand how antivirus programs work and how you can choose the one that’s best for you.

What is a computer virus?

A computer virus is a type of malware that spreads from system to system, replicating itself and damaging each host that it overtakes. While the term “virus” is rather broad – it can refer to worms, spyware, Trojan horses, keyloggers, or many other kinds of malware – all viruses spread by attaching to other programs and files within your system. They may be merely annoying or they may cause serious damage; it all depends on what virus it is and the kind of antivirus protection that you have.

There are several ways for a system to become infected with a virus, but often they are spread via email attachments or other downloadable files. They could be completely legitimate files infected with malware or links that have been altered to include a virus. Either way, once a virus is downloaded, it alters the way your computer functions. Because these viruses are so easy to download, even without knowing it, an antivirus program is essential.

What is antivirus software used for?

Because of the nature of viruses, antivirus programs have many uses. Their primary goal is to detect and remove viruses, as well as other types of malicious software, from your device. They perform scans to find any dangerous or malicious software on your computer and delete it automatically, clearing your device and preventing the viruses from spreading further.

Many antivirus programs also provide other services, such as a firewall. A firewall provides protection against outside cyber attackers by shielding your computer from malicious network traffic. Without a firewall, viruses have a better chance at slipping through your computer’s defenses. Using an antivirus program that also works as a firewall means your data and files will be even more protected than they would be if you used the antivirus software or a firewall alone.

Signs you have a virus

Sometimes viruses lie dormant for long periods of time. It can be difficult to find a virus on your computer without an antivirus software program capable of scanning for infection. However, if you experience any of the following, it may indicate your computer has a virus.

  • Random files and icons that you did not install appear on your desktop
  • Files disappear from your system
  • You receive a high number of unusual error messages
  • On-screen text, graphics, or pop-ups become distorted or unreadable
  • Hard disks, CD drives or other hardware can’t be accessed
  • Programs that previously worked properly run slowly or don’t run at all
  • Your system becomes extremely slow and freezes often
  • Your system crashes and reboots every few minutes

Every virus causes a different set of problems; this is by no means an all-encompassing list. But the symptoms above are several of the most common indicators of a virus. If you experience one or more of them, download a secure antivirus software program as soon as possible and run a scan.

Why is it important to install antivirus software on your computer?

Quite simply, an antivirus program could be the difference between a functional laptop and a completely inoperable one. Viruses corrupt data, software, and programs, sometimes without the user even realizing it. It’s far easier to prevent a problem than to solve one; antivirus software prevents viruses from getting onto your device, which prevents them from doing damage to your computer and countless others if the virus were to spread.

How to choose a strong antivirus program

Ideally, your antivirus program should be able to protect against not only viruses but also against other malware as well. Spyware and adware should be on your radar, as well as scams that come through via emails, phone calls, or websites. Many antivirus programs also defend against phishing attacks along with malware protection. Choose the program with features that will help guard against the biggest threats in your online life.

Ultimately, however, an antivirus program, like any security software, should be two things: preventative and efficient. Some antivirus products only fix issues after they’ve happened. Preventing viruses is far easier than dealing with virus removal after the fact. Choose a program that features a protection plan right off the bat so you don’t have to worry about accidentally harming your computer with downloaded malware or venturing onto dangerous sites in your online activity.

Ensuring your antivirus program is efficient means that it won’t slow down your system or run scans that get in the way of your day-to-day usage. Since the software runs constantly in the background, find a program that performs scans during all of your typical computer tasks, like downloading files and browsing websites. This way, you’ll be protected while you use your device, but you won’t be bogged down by slow speeds.

Which antivirus is best?

There are many antivirus programs on the market. Many have free antivirus software versions for users on a budget. However, for those looking to stay safe with premium protection, we recommend using one of the following programs: