Antivirus software is designed to detect, block, and remove malicious software from your computer, disabling it from interfering with your data integrity and computer performance. Antivirus software came a long way from its predecessors and still improves its methods against newly appearing malicious software. Antivirus software is scanning the program files for specific bits of codes against an already known database of malware and blocks malware before it infiltrates the computer.
At the same time, the main goal of antivirus software is to prevent the malware from spreading and causing harm and removing it, if you got infected. It is hard to imagine how much losses would companies and individual users face each day without necessary levels of protection. Unfortunately, hackers always will prey on users and their data to benefit from it.
Antivirus Real-Time Protection
Real-time protection (also background guard, on-access scanning) is the automatic protection provided by the most antivirus software solutions. Its primary goal is to monitor computer systems for suspicious activity and unusual software behavior and provide the most appropriate reaction if there is a suspicion that a computer might get infected. In other words, the data is monitored while it is loaded in the computer’s active memory when the file is opened or executed.
Often it is possible to change settings and adjust real-time protection. Specialists suggest that this feature should always be running as without it, the chances to get malware increase and multiply by every visit on the website. Moreover, while adjusting real-time protection, it is better to set scanning options and decide what AV solution should do with suspicious files and programs (block, quarantine, or delete right away).
Depending on the analysis methods, the scan can affect computer performance. Among various popular methods, it is proven that behavioral and heuristic methods can challenge new types of malware, while signature-based ones are the best to cope with already known threats. At the same time, some products use clouds or sandboxes to perform the execution of the program without causing harm to the system, but these methods may take more time to investigate programs.
Best background scanning
Another positive sign of good antivirus, besides high-quality real-time protection, is the fact that the product was tested by leading interdependent AV labs. These tests allow developers to improve and patch vulnerabilities in their product, while test labs strive to help developers in this matter.
One among leading AV test labs, AV-Test offers regular review by key criteria for each product: protection, performance, and usability. When speaking about real-time protection, one of the definitive criteria will be protection.
According to standard AV-Test procedure, the product had to show the perfect score in fending off the latest attacks, including zero-day malware, drive-by attacks, downloads from websites, attacks via infected emails, and other types of threats. The latest February test shows Avast, Avira, and Bitdefender as one of the leaders in protection, scoring 6 out of 6 points in protection. Among those who gave hopes were Total AV and McAfee, respectively, scoring 4.5 out of 6, and 5.5 out of 6.
You should always check for other independent testing results that would provide you with a full picture of how the product deals with all common malware.
How Often Should I Run Full System Scans?
There are three types of scans available for you with your antivirus of choice: Full scan, Custom scan, and Quick scan. These are three basic types that you need to rest assured that your data wasn’t compromised or infected with malware. However, a Full scan is proven to be one of the essential types, allowing you to scan your computer even for hidden threats that can stay inactive and wait for their implementation.
A Full scan performs a deep scan of your entire system, without giving malware even a chance to escape. The Full virus scan works usually and runs analysis for all hard drives, removable storages, network drivers, system memory (RAM), system backups, startup folders, and registry items. Of course, this type of scan is one of the most time consuming, but it is self-explanatory why.
Specialists advise that once in a month Full system scans are enough for the average PC user. However, if you work with a large amount of data and often browse, it is better to perform the Full scan once in two weeks. In such a way, it is easy to notice and prevent malware lurking in your system.
How Does an Antivirus Program Detect Malware?
First, check our article to learn that malware becomes more sophisticated; it uses polymorphism, encryption, metamorphism, or code obfuscation and hides from classic signature detection methods. Various new generation AV solutions implement several methods of detection analysis, both using signature-based detection and behavioral analysis, so it is easier to detect and learn from new types of malware.
Let’s see what four most commonly implemented in AV products are:
- Signature-based detection – it uses existing databases of known malware, checking for new programs and applications against malware signatures in the database. If signatures match, the program becomes blocked. This detection method is not sufficient for newly created malware.
- Behavioral detection – it is one of the most advanced methods of virus detection, as it analyses how the program executes. It searches for any untypical behavior, for instance, in keystrokes, and then reacts to suspicious patterns. This method is also far from perfect, as it requires the program to run and perform the task.
- Heuristic method – it is similar to the signature-based method, but it is more effective against malware unknown for databases. It examines programs for characteristics common for malware. The heuristic method investigates the code structure for anomalies, which can result in false positives in some cases.
- Sandboxing – this method is a rare approach in AV solutions. Still, it is effective due to the possibility of running a program in a virtual environment without risks of infecting the system. This method is slower, but it allows AV solutions to evaluate the program using behavior or heuristic methods in a safe space.
What Antivirus Is the Best?
The process of choosing the best AV solution is always tough and requires time for consideration. Although scanning methods and real-time protection are the essential ones, you, as a consumer, should look for other features. From individual needs to specific preferences, you are always the one who decides what option is suitable for you.
At the same time, AV solutions are not a luxury but a necessity in times when new malware is produced every minute. Although you may think that your information shouldn’t be interesting for hackers, they will benefit from this misconception.
As a part of your research, it is always a must to learn more about AV products, malware, and other aspects of cybersecurity. There are dozens of materials from leading brands, software developers’ brightest minds, and professional reviews that can help you in this quest. You don’t have to be tech-savvy or finish special courses to become educated on this topic.