What Is Antivirus Software (And How Do They Keep You Safe?)

If you spend a lot of time online, you may have heard of ‘antivirus software’. It’s often recommended, advertised, and encouraged for anyone who is connected to the internet at any given time, and for good reason too!

Antivirus software is an important tool for keeping you safe from threats to your cybersecurity, protecting your personal data, and shielding you from dangerous malware.

What Is Antivirus Software (and How Do They Keep You Safe)

But what exactly is antivirus software? And how does it defend you against these threats?

You’re in luck, because this article has got you covered. Here, we’ll take you through what antivirus software is, how it works, and why using an antivirus is crucial for keeping you and your data safe when you’re using the internet.

What Is Antivirus Software?

First of all, what is an antivirus? Essentially, an antivirus is a piece of software that scans your computer for viruses or malicious programs (these are referred to as ‘malware’). It can also be used to protect against other types of threats such as spyware and trojans.

Antivirus software protects your devices by scanning for and identifying threats to your cybersecurity. They are also used to remove or destroy these threats and act as a preventative method to stop them from occurring at all.

You can think of antivirus software almost like the white blood cells in your body; when it discovers a harmful piece of network traffic, it will attack and destroy it, and learn how to better protect you from said traffic in the future.

Antivirus isn’t the same thing as a firewall. While firewalls can only protect your devices against external issues, antivirus software is designed to protect you from both external and internal threats.

Antivirus software is designed to protect you in all forms of your digital presence, from the software on your phone to the hardware of your computer. Using an antivirus is a simple and easy way to keep yourself safe from cyberattacks.

How Does Antivirus Software Work?

So how does antivirus software work, and how does it protect you against cyberattacks?

As mentioned before, antivirus is constantly searching for threats such as malware and viruses. It does this by scanning all incoming and outgoing network traffic passing through your devices.

It then searches through all the data it scans (from apps, programs, files, etc.) and compares it with an internal database. If traffic is safe, it’s allowed through. If it flags as a match for malicious or harmful software, the antivirus will stop it from accessing your data and destroy it.

Antivirus software also scans the data already on your device to check for any malware. On top of that, it even functions as a preventative measure to stop malware from even trying to access your devices. By doing this, antivirus software takes a proactive approach to maintaining your cybersecurity.

Antivirus is an important tool to have. With how easy it is for hackers to access and attack unprotected data, having an antivirus is a great line of defense to have at your disposal.

Not only that, however, but antivirus also helps keep you safe from threats like data mining and other things that access and manipulate your personal data. This will prevent your data from being harvested and sold to anyone who wants to use it (such as advertisers, corporations, and fraudsters).

While online threats can be worrying, using an antivirus is a great way to stay safe.

That’s not to say antivirus is foolproof, however, and there are several places that antivirus software falls short. Antivirus software can make mistakes, either with a false negative that lets malware through, or with a false positive that blocks an important piece of traffic.

It also has limited detection overall, and there are some forms of malware (especially newer ones) that are capable of evading detection.

Antivirus software can cause its own issues as well. Having antivirus software on your devices will slow them down noticeably, particularly during scans or updates (which usually aren’t optional).

Subscription-based antivirus services are also hindered by frequent notifications and even promotions for different services – again, these aren’t typically optional.

But while there are some drawbacks to using antivirus software, there are far too many advantages to ignore. Antivirus software is key to keeping your data safe and secure, and it’s unwise to maintain an online presence without at least some form of protection against malware.

Types Of Antivirus Software


There are main types of antivirus software out there: malware signature antivirus, machine learning antivirus, and system monitoring antivirus. These types all have their merits and drawbacks and most antivirus services utilize multiple (if not all) of them.

Malware signature antivirus looks for the ‘signature’ of any malicious software. These are basically the digital footprint of the malware, which the antivirus uses to track down and destroy the viruses it identifies. However, this type of antivirus is limited to the malware it already knows how to identify.

Machine learning antivirus is used to identify any suspicious, abnormal, or harmful network traffic passing through your devices.

Through the use of machine learning, the antivirus software is able to adapt and improve its methods of identifying and disabling malware as it attempts to access your network.

System monitoring antivirus is somewhat similar to both other types of antivirus, containing some elements of the two. This type of antivirus watches out for unusual network traffic like machine learning antivirus, but also scans traffic for any known malware signatures.

Additionally, this type of antivirus prevents internal cybersecurity threats by stopping processes that involve accessing unknown sites or transferring large amounts of data, just to name a few examples.

Final Thoughts

There are many benefits to using antivirus software. From keeping your devices safe from malware, to encrypting your data for added protection against hackers, antivirus is critical to maintaining a safe online presence while cybersecurity threats continue to grow.

So if you’re concerned about your online safety and avoiding threats to your network security, using antivirus software is a great way to keep your devices safe from harm.

Dale Williams
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