What (Good) Antivirus Does and Doesn’t Do

You need antivirus software. That’s obvious; after all, security experts have extolled the importance of antivirus for decades.

Yet, you rarely hear about viruses anymore — instead, it’s all ransomware this and crypto ackers that. You might even have read about the emerging trend in file less malware, which doesn’t install itself on devices at all. The new threat landscape is nothing like that to which you are accustomed, so is having an antivirus program still even necessary? What does this type of software even do for you, anyway?

The Answer: a Lot

First, it is important to remember that new malware hitting the web is no reason for old malware to disappear. Just because ransomware, cryptojackers and even fileless malware are emerging, you shouldn’t un-learn all those old tactics for recognizing dangerous spam and phishing attempts. In fact, as newer and more complex malware variants are developed, older and clunkier techniques become more accessible by the masses, meaning you are more likely to suffer from a malware developed a decade ago than you are likely to contract the newer stuff.

That’s why you need a max security antivirus program. These tools protect you from all the malware that has been around the block — all the viruses, worms and Trojans that the infosec industry has seen and developed solutions to.

While this can include newer varieties, like ransomware and cryptojackers, it certainly protects around the billions of other infections you are most likely to encounter.

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Plus, antivirus software does way more than you can to protect your device. Specifically, even the most rudimentary antivirus products perform these essential tasks:

  • Scan all device and network files or directories for malware
  • Scan specific files or directories for malware
  • Quarantine questionable files or code and request user action
  • Automatically purge malicious files or code
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Of course, the more comprehensive your antivirus software, the more effective and thorough your protection will be. Thus, you should only acquire antivirus programs from trustworthy sources — big brands like TrendMicro.

Additionally, it might be beneficial for you to understand how antivirus tools accomplish these tasks, so you can make an informed decision from your options.

How Antivirus Tools Work

To understand how current antivirus systems function, you first need to know a bit about malware. Excepting the fileless variety, all malware contains executable code that is downloaded onto your computer during the infection phase.

This code has differences that distinguish it from less dangerous types of executable files, like word documents and video games.


Antivirus programs search for these differences within files to identify malware and prevent it from harming your device. This is called signature-based detection because the unique strings of malware code are called signatures.

When you buy antivirus software, you are mostly buying a security company’s library of signatures and a tool to compare those known signatures against code on your computer.

However, signature-based methods are swiftly becoming obsolete — not because malware is becoming fileless but rather because there are so many new signatures emerging every day.

Every 24 hours, more than 350,000 malware variants are created and released, meaning purely signature-based antivirus programs must update often to stay relevant. That’s why top antivirus programs use additional tricks to protect you, your device and your data.

The first trick is called heuristics-based detection. In this method, antivirus software will search for other indicators that a file is dangerous, such as junk code or rare instructions.

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Through diligent research, infosec professionals have identified dozens of likely signs that malware is present. Though a single feature might not set off alarms, several raised flags could prompt the program to quarantine the file and ask the user to determine the next course of action. Heuristics aren’t perfect, but they often work.

Further, the latest and greatest antivirus programs are equipped with behavior detection capabilities.

Usually once an antivirus software suspects that a file is malicious — either through signature scanning or a heuristic technique — it will emulate executing the file and watch what happens.

If the code unpacks, runs or otherwise behaves suspiciously, the antivirus program will quarantine or remove the file, saving the user from unnecessary hardship.

As malware evolves, so too does antivirus software. With every advancement the bad guys make, the good guys are at least on equal ground — if not a few steps ahead.

Already, top-shelf antivirus programs come with basic artificial intelligence, which can predict malware progressions long before they actually occur. This and other improvements will keep you and your device safe — as long as you buy, install and update antivirus.

Rahul Setia was born and raised in the Kaithal, Haryana. He worked at brands like Jabong, ProProfs etc. He was also in the List of Top 100 Social Media Influencer's 2019 by Status Brew. He lives in Delhi/NCR and is a Digital Gig & Founder of Websites i.e TechBlogCorner.com, ViralMasalla.com, DealorCoupons.com. Follow me on: LinkedIn, @rahulsetia007 and Facebook.

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