What features should you look for in an antivirus program?
- Real-time Scanner – One of the key components, the real-time scanner will be on the lookout for newly introduced malware as it tries to take hold of your system.
- Scheduled Scans – Most antivirus programs give you the option of setting up a schedule for your scans. It’s worth checking which scans can be scheduled though as some only give the option of planning full scanning routines rather than quick or user-configured ones.
- Automatic Virus Updates – This is important – if your antivirus program is not updated regularly it will be nowhere near as effective as it should be. Considering how forgetful many of us are, automatic updates are essential in my opinion.
- Automatic Program Updates – Likewise, the ability of the program to update itself is also extremely useful. While the majority of protection comes in the form of virus updates, sometimes the program itself will be upgraded to give it more functionality or the ability to detect new threats. Good antivirus programs will have the ability to check for updates automatically.
- On-access Scanner – This scanner is fairly self-explanatory – it performs a quick scan of any program or file as it is opened.
- On-demand Scanner – An on-demand scanner does just what it implies – it gives you the ability to scan a file or folder whenever you choose to.
- Heuristic Scanner – Increasingly important as the volume of new malware increases,
heuristic scanners can detect threats based on what is known about existing malware and its behavior rather than relying on specific signatures.
- Compressed File Scanner – Such a scanner will allow the antivirus program to scan files contained within compressed files such as zip files.
- Script Blocking – Script languages are often used to execute malicious code directly from web sites. Good AV programs will come with the ability to monitor Java, ActiveX, Visual Basic and other types of script files and detect and block malicious activity.
- POP3 Email Scanning – This gives antivirus software the ability to monitor incoming and/or outgoing POP3 email traffic along with any associated file attachments in order to detect viruses and other malware threats.
- Webmail Protection – An essential protection for anyone using web-based email such as Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail, it acts in much the same was as POP3 email scanning.
- Instant Messaging Protection – Instant messaging services continue to be a popular platform for spreading malware. A good antivirus program will monitor such services to detect and block malicious threats.
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