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Computer Viruses

What is antivirus software?

How does antivirus software work?

Why do I need antivirus software?

What should I look for in antivirus software?

Antivirus software recommendations

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What is a computer virus and antivirus software?


Antivirus software is the countermeasure program used to "inoculate" computer viruses. Computer viruses are programs that mimic the attributes of their real-world counterparts. Computer viruses replicate, cause damage to an otherwise healthy system, and can spread from host to host. Like real-world viruses, a computer virus needs a host, a means of transportation. In the digital world this can be in e-mail, other programs, or media (cd/floppy/tape). There is one caveat however - computer viruses need to be activated. Much the same way that carcinogens in our bodies won’t give us cancer unless they are activated, computer viruses need to be activated as well, usually via a click or open command.

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How does antivirus software work?

Antivirus software works in two ways. The first and the staple of the industry is based on signature files. When a computer virus is reported, the virus is examined and a signature file is created for inoculating the virus. This inoculation is added to the antivirus software database (.dat file) and is used when scanning computers to identify and destroy viruses. Unfortunately this is a reactive process so someone has to be the guinea pig and get infected. The other more progressive way of identifying viruses is called heuristics. This method will be the future of the industry and is basically the only hope we have in eliminating computer viruses. Heuristics monitor all activity on your computer and if a program is "acting" like a virus, then a red flag is raised and it is destroyed or contained and reported. The biggest hurdle for advancement in this area is the difficulty of determining what constitutes virus-like activity. For instance, replication is a common attribute of virus activity, but there can also be valid replication, like in program association. During program association, programs check to see whether or not they are the default. If they are not and you want them to be, then the program will change all of the files, which is akin to replication.

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Why do I need antivirus software?

Computer viruses are the most common threat in the digital world right now. If you don't have antivirus software, you will eventually get a virus and probably lose data that you have had on your computer for years. If you have antivirus software, not only can you save your data, but you’ll save yourself the migraine you'll get when you discover the havoc wreaked upon your computer by a virus, which could be as bad as an infection in your boot record or BIOS, rendering your computer completely useless. antivirus software is worth every penny, giving you peace of mind and insurance against certain trouble.

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What should I look for when purchasing antivirus software?

There are many different vendors of antivirus software, and you are probably wondering which one is the best. There is unfortunately no simple answer to that question. Whatever solution you choose for your computer, make sure of the following specifications:

  • The software can automatically update itself
  • The vendor provides updated virus definitions regularly 
  • The software can integrate into your email program
  • Virus scans can be scheduled to run automatically
  • The software has a proven track record
  • The vendor releases timely and accurate information about new viruses

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Antivirus software recommendations

If you are unsure as to which product to purchase you can look at the reviews section or I personally prefer AVG

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