Antivirus software is designed to detect, prevent, and remove malicious software, also known as malware. The malware classification includes viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and scareware, as well as (depending on the scanner) some forms of potentially unwanted programs (such as adware and spyware).
At its core, antivirus software provides signature-based malware (malicious software) detection. A virus signature (also known as a pattern) is based on a unique code segment within malware, usually added/placed and distributed in the form of antivirus signature updates (also known as patterns).
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Since its beginnings in the late 1980s, antivirus software has evolved along with the threats it protects against. As a result, today’s static signature detection (pattern matching) is often bolstered by more dynamic behavior-based and intrusion prevention technologies.
Antivirus software is often the subject of contentious debate. The most common themes are disagreement over paid or free antivirus, the assumption that signature detection is ineffective, and the conspiracy theory that antivirus vendors write the malware that scanners are designed to detect. A brief analysis of each of these arguments follows.
Free compared to fee
Antivirus software is sold or distributed in many forms, from stand-alone antivirus scanners to full Internet security suites that include antivirus with a firewall, privacy controls, and other complementary security protections. Some providers, such as Microsoft, AVG, Avast, and AntiVir, offer free antivirus software for home use (sometimes also for small home offices, also called SOHOs).
Periodically, there will be debates about whether free antivirus is as capable as paid antivirus. A long-term analysis of antivirus software tests from AV-Test.org suggests that paid products tend to demonstrate higher levels of prevention and removal than free antivirus software. On the other hand, free antivirus software tends to be less feature-rich, thus consuming fewer system resources, suggesting that it may work better on older computers or computers with limited system capacity.
Whether you opt for free or paid antivirus is a personal decision that should be based on your financial capabilities and the needs of your team. However, what you should always avoid are pop-ups and ads that promise a free antivirus scan. These ads are scareware – fake products that falsely claim that your computer is infected in order to trick you into buying a fake antivirus scanner.
Firms can’t keep up
Despite its ability to effectively detect most malware, a significant percentage of malware can be missed by traditional antivirus software. To counter this, a layered security approach provides the best coverage, especially when layered protection is provided by different vendors. If all security is provided by a single vendor, the attack surface becomes much larger. As a result, any vulnerability in that vendor’s software – or missed detection – can have a much more adverse impact than it would in a more diverse environment.
Regardless, while antivirus software is not an accessory to every bit of malware and additional layers of security are needed, antivirus software should be at the core of any protection system you decide on, as it will be the workhorse of your system. battle that deters most of the threats you would otherwise have to deal with.
Do antivirus vendors write viruses?
The conspiracy theory that antivirus vendors write viruses is an old, silly, and completely unfounded notion. The accusation is akin to claiming that doctors create disease or that police rob banks in exchange for job security.
There are literally millions of malware, with more than tens of thousands of new threats discovered daily. If antivirus vendors wrote malware, there would be a lot less of it, since no one in the antivirus industry is a glutton for punishment. Criminals and attackers write and distribute malware. Employees of antivirus vendors work long, hard hours to ensure your computer is safe from attack.