Antivirus Information You Need

With all of the news about corporate hacks that have affected companies such as SolarWinds and Microsoft, we want to take a moment to remind everyone about the importance of antivirus. Among the things that get lost in all of the doom and gloom news is that there are some simple steps we can take to protect ourselves online. Antivirus programs are one of the most basic, but there is a lot of bad information floating around out there, so we wanted to set the record straight.

Debunking Some Common Myths About Antivirus

  • Windows Defender will NOT be enough to protect your system by itself
  • Apple products ARE vulnerable to malware and viruses
  • Safe websites CAN be hacked
  • Emails from friends and family are NOT always safe
  • Antivirus will NOT slow your system down

There are more but let’s just wipe these myths away now.

Before we get into the details you need to know, let’s talk about why this is so important.

Antivirus and Digital Security

One reason that viruses and malware are so prolific is that many people don’t really understand what threats they face out on the internet. Hackers are actively trying to get your information. Yes…YOU! Every piece of personal information has a dollar value to someone. At the extreme ends are Marketers who want to find better ways to sell to you and Hackers who want to find better ways to steal from you. In between is a whole lot of people who can make money by collecting your personal information and selling it.

Many people don’t believe that they’re important enough to be targeted, and those trying to collect your information want you to keep believing that. The less aware you are, the easier it is for them to make money off the information they steal from you.

Awareness is good, but it’s not enough, that’s why we’re going to discuss:

Digital Security Screen ImageAntivirus! The Information You Need To Know

A question we often get: Do I really need an Antivirus?

The answer in an unequivocal YES! Personally or for your small business, having an antivirus program is vital to internet security. There are many options when it comes to antivirus programs, which is good because different people have different needs.

We’re going to discuss why they are important and what they do for you, features to look for, and  how to go about choosing the best option for your needs. With all of this information, you’ll be able to look at the landscape of available options and select the one that is best fit for you.

Why Antivirus is Important?

Hacker Matrix Style ImageAs we discussed earlier, it’s your information that’s at risk. From finances to friends to where you browse on the internet and so much more – your information belongs to you and it should be protected. Do you leave your front door unlocked or your keys in the car? Of course not that’s like inviting thieves to steal from you. Not having an antivirus program is doing just that. Antivirus programs help to protect you from cyber threats including malware, phishing scams, ransomware, spyware, Trojans, and more. In addition to stealing data, these types of attacks can also cause your computer to slow down, files to go missing, or completely lock you out, making your computer unusable.

Computers are our gateways to news, entertainment, communication, and millions of cat videos. Antivirus programs exist to help us protect our computers from viruses, hackers, and scams. But how?

Like the locks on your front door and car, antivirus programs are there to prevent intrusions into your computer. Also like those locks, they can’t stop every intrusion, but you are much safer with antivirus than without. All computer intrusions, whether or not they cause damage or steal information, are accomplished by exploiting a vulnerability. These vulnerabilities serve as the access point to an attack, and send a signal to others that the computer has been infiltrated, opening the door to bigger and more vicious attacks. Antivirus programs identify these vulnerabilities and close that door. The programs evolve to identify and counter new threats as hackers come up with them, which brings us to:

Lot’s Of Features

All antivirus programs are going to advertise a list of features. While all features are important, some are more important to specific people than others. We’re going to break down some of the most common features to look for when deciding which one to choose.

Virus Protection
An antivirus guards your computer against infection by checking activity on your computer against a database of ‘known suspicious activity’. For example, if your computer is attempting to modify critical files, the antivirus may recognize that as a malicious activity and block it. Antivirus software will also attempts to locate and eliminate the source of the malicious activity.

Malware Protection
This component of antivirus software protects your computer from infection by malicious software with real-time scanning. Malicious software includes Trojans, viruses, spyware and other software designed to cause your computer to malfunction or destroy your data.

Phishing Protection
Phishing software typically integrates with web browser and email client software and attempts to identify and notify the user of any phishing content encountered on the web or by email.

Email Protection
Emails are one of the most common and effective mediums for transmitting and receiving malicious code. This type of protection includes the ability to scan inbound and outbound email for infected attachments and URLs to malicious websites. Some antivirus software include quarantine and blocking features as well.

Protection Against Browser Exploits
Browser exploits usually involve website code that is written to take advantage of a vulnerability in a web browser. For example, hackers may embed code on a web page that virtually steals your click and applies it toward an action that you never intended. Like taking your Cancel click and making it a Confirm click.

Trojan Protection
Anti-Trojan software performs an integrity check on programs you install on your computer. It identifies and isolates software that may be performing a clandestine activity. For example, that new contact organizer might also send snapshots of you from your webcam to an undisclosed location.

Spyware Protection
Spyware is a type of malware that can steal files and record the activity of an infected computer. Spyware can be used to gather information used to access password protected accounts or view a listing of visited websites.

Worm Protection
A worm is a type of malware infection that spreads by duplicating itself across networks and onto infected hard drives. Worms are malicious code designed to make computers run more slowly and eventually crash by filling all of the available disk space.

Rootkit Monitoring
A rootkit attack is a type of software infection that can integrate into an operating system and replace critical files with corrupt and malicious versions. Monitoring this functionality can help to detect, prevent the installation of, and remove certain rootkit infections. Once infected, the most reliable way to remove a root kit infection is to reformat the infected hard drive and reinstall the operating system.

Heuristic Scanner
Heuristic scanning uses what is known about existing malware and what it has learned from past experience to identify new threats even before the antivirus vendor creates an update to detect it.

Secure Network
There are automated programs running on computers around the world whose sole purpose is to find vulnerable computers connected to internet. Antivirus software with features designed to secure your network will typically close unnecessarily open ports to your computer and monitor activity between the programs on your computer and the internet.

Automatic Updates
One of the biggest problems users have with antivirus software is simply keeping the virus lists and scan engines up to date to scan for newer threats and add functionality. Most antivirus software can be configured to automatically connect with the vendor site and download new updates as they are released.

Far from the only features included with antivirus programs, these are the most important.

Choose Wisely

Digital Security Lock ImageWhile the above features are essential to having a quality anti-virus program, there are others that may be important to one person and not another. An included firewall, easily navigable interface, multi-device protection, or VPN are just a few options that may be included in the software. Some of them, like the firewall might be good for personal use, but would not be anywhere near robust enough to handle a small business. Other factors such as multi-license costs, identity protection, and the availability of tech support might appeal to some people but not others, or businesses and not personal.

When choosing an anti-virus program, so long as it contains the features we discussed above, you will be protected. Always check the features to be sure it includes all of them. When looking at additional features, be aware that add-ons are just that…an anti-virus company is not going to be able to do firewalls, VPN, or backups as well as a company who specializes in those products, but what they offer may be enough to meet your particular needs.

Bonus Tip: The best way to compare features of specific programs is open a web browser and type: [product 1 name] vs [product 2 name]. Incidentally, this is a good way to compare features of product. You could even just type [product name] vs and get a list of similar products.


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