what is antivirus software anyway?
An antivirus program (AV) is a piece of software designed to protect your desktop computer, laptop, netbook, Mac or mobile device from malicious software (more commonly referred to as “malware”).
Malware – more on that later – is the name given to any piece of code designed to disrupt your system in some way, be if for the purposes of causing you grief, stealing your money, or any other type of mischievous or criminal behavior.
Antivirus software is designed to thwart that threat, typically via signature-based detection methods. Virus signatures are based on unique portions of code found within the malware and are typically check-summed/hashed and distributed in the form of regular antivirus signature updates. In other words, researchers at the antivirus companies delve into a new computer virus or other piece of malicious software, analyze it and then tell their security software what to look out for in order to detect it.
Since the antivirus industry was born in the 1980s, the technology has come on leaps and bounds, primarily in response to the growing number of threats.
When the internet was in its infancy, the number of viruses and other types of malware were minuscule in comparison to today. As a result, AV vendors could keep their customers safe by simply sending out updates monthly on floppy disks.
Nowadays, the number of threats is vast and new malware appears every minute of the day. Infrequent updates are no longer enough and so the security programs of today offer near continuous updates, often delivered via the cloud.
Also, the way in which viruses are detected has changed. Simply matching signatures is not sufficient to deal with the evolving threat – modern antivirus programs now tend to incorporate additional tools such as behavioral-based detection and intrusion prevention technology.
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