how an antivirus software works & why you need to have one

How an Antivirus Software Works, and Why You Need to Have One

From the very first time we were able to touch our own computer, we’ve always heard from everyone around the risks we’re taking when going online. The term ‘virus’ has been embedded in our heads from the very start. The fear of unknown malicious threats hampering your PC performance, that can even go as far as stealing your personal information.

Luckily for us, we have the means to safeguard ourselves from potential threats online. That’s where an Antivirus Software comes in handy. Today, we tackle HOW it works, and WHY you NEED to have one. While a number of people don’t really understand how it works, they get one anyway. Sometimes a free antivirus software, which is fine, and sometimes a fully licensed software which is optimal. With antivirus software, carefree browsing awaits you.

But not everyone understands how exactly an antivirus software protects them online. All they know is, why they have it installed, but rarely know the process. Just like in anything we go through, knowing the result isn’t enough. Knowing the process is just as important as getting the result, or service we want.

What is Antivirus Software?

Antivirus software helps protect your computer against malware and cybercriminals. Antivirus software looks at data — web pages, files, software, applications — traveling over the network to your devices.    It provides protection for malicious threats – viruses, Trojan horses, worms, spyware, and adware –  usually provided by cybersecurity companies. The software runs a system scan searches your system for the specific virus definitions, or notifies you if you have an undefined definition.

What is a Virus?

A computer virus is a type of malicious code or program written to alter the way a computer operates and is designed to spread from one computer to another.  Its purpose is to infect a vulnerable system to gain control and steal user sensitive data. Viruses can come from anywhere from files, emails, to websites, to click-ads, infected storage devices and it tricks you into not knowing you’re susceptible or not.

Different types of Malware

  • Worms

A worm is a malware program that replicates itself to target other networks of devices infecting one computer to another and to another. It can replicate itself without human interaction and does not need a software program in order to function.

  • Trojans

Trojans are named after its historical counterpart, it does exactly what the Trojan Horse did centuries ago, it pretends to be harmless legitimate software in order to trick the user to open the gates for other threats to harm your PC.

  • Spyware

Spyware is software that enables a user to obtain covert information about another’s computer activities by transmitting data covertly from their hard drive. This type of malware spy on users, steal their passwords, steal credit card details, and other information, and send it to the programmer of the spyware.

  • Adware

Adware automatically displays or downloads advertising material when a user is online. The advertisements produced can be in the form of a pop-up or an un-closable window that leads to other types of malware to get in.

  • Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the system’s screen or by locking the users’ files unless a ransom is paid.

How did Viruses Start?

Viruses have been around for over 40 years, disrupting a number of individuals, organizations, and government agencies throughout the years. As technology has progressed over that time, so have the viruses. As cyber-attacks have become more frequent, cybersecurity companies have kept the pace in assuring people all over the world, that there are means to protect everyone from these types of threats. We take a look at how viruses have evolved as time has.

The Evolution of the Computer Virus

antivirus software, cybersecurity, threats
Credit: Cybercrime | D. Laganzon
  • The First Virus

The concept was first developed in 1946, by John von Neumann. Later on, he published an article in 1966 revealing that a virus should be a self-replicating automatic entity, and in 1971, the Creeper Virus was born. A countermeasure called, The Reaper Program, was designed to counter the process of the Creeper Virus. Rich Skrenta created Elk Cloner, which is known as the first computer virus. It was intended as a practical joke and was spread via a floppy disk. It was attached to a computer game for the Apple DOS System. At the time, it was completely unexpected as it was the first public occurrence, and people were not aware that such a thing existed.

  • Brain 

The Brain was created by Pakistani brothers, Basit Farooq Alvi and Amjad Farooq Alvi. It was initially intended to be a security mechanism to combat copyright infringement. It was the first stealth virus and the first PC-specific virus.

A boot-sector virus that infects the startup sectors of storage devices – through the boot sector of a floppy disk or master-boot record of a hard disk. The reason why it’s named after Michaelangelo is that the computers infected with this virus will have its critical data on its boot disk overwritten – every March 6 the birthday of the historical figure. Consumers were warned not to open their computer on that particular date.

The first destructive virus. Also known as the “Festering Hate Apple Pro DOS”. The virus was able to infect every file on the system: deleting them in the long run. It was during this time that the increasing use of computer-software on a worldwide scale was making it much easier to spread a virus.

  • ILOVEYOU Virus

A computer worm that was spread through an email attachment. Developed by Onel de Guzman, it used social engineering to prompt victims to open files, later copied by many forms of malware. This virus affected over 45 million computers worldwide and resulted in over $8 billion dollars in damages.

  • Zeus

A type of malware that collects personal information -email accounts, financial details, banking records – that is then used by the hacker for financial fraud.

Reasons viruses are created today

  • Steal information for monetary gain

Some malware was designed not specifically to harm your PC, but rather to gather personal information such as passwords, credit card information, bank details and it sends that information to the creator of the malware. That information can be sold to bidders –  used to make unwarranted transactions. Another way of making money is through ads. The program can collect certain info on you and direct you to a number of suspicious advertisements. If enough ads affect enough computers, the programmers can then be compensated for all the ads displayed.

  • As a source of entertainment

In some cases, viruses are purely for the entertainment of the program creator. Some people on the web are aware that not everyone is knowledgeable or aware of the sites containing malware, or the fact that their computers have already been infected with the said threats. That makes them easy targets for virus creators to wreak havoc on their vulnerability and get a kick out of watching them panic and try to figure out what’s happening.

  • To damage businesses and enterprises

Viruses can search your operating system and they can delete or alter specific files. Some viruses were created with an opposing agenda to a business and the purpose of the particular virus is to damage the business or enterprise.

How antivirus software detects and disposes of threats

  • Background Scanning

The software scans the file which is then cross-referenced with their database that contains their definitions of viruses. If one of the files is marked as a virus, the software then disposes of them. Executable files will go through the system scan and the ones matched with the definitions in their database will then be marked. When you open a certain file, your antivirus works in the background scanning it for potential threats.

A full system scan is more thorough and precise. Usually done when a new antivirus program is installed, it makes sure that there are no viruses remaining hidden in your system. It also ensures that your antivirus is up-to-date, which can add new virus definitions to their list if they spot an unknown one in your system. Full system scans also repair a possibly infected computer.

Checks all the .EXE files and cross-checks it with the malware definitions in their database or checks if a certain file is portraying some unusual behavior commonly found in known viruses.

  • Heuristic detection

Designed to detect previously unknown viruses by looking for suspicious or malicious behavior, not present in the latest list of definitions. They run possibly infected applications and programs, within a runtime virtual environment. This keeps the code from infecting a realtime environment.

  •  Behavior-based Detection

focuses on detecting specific characteristics that are compared to existing malware that contain the same characteristics as the file is displaying, and if the potential malware files end up doing malware actions.

What Antivirus to Get?


antivirus software, cybersecurity, threats
Credit: Quality is Excellence | G. Altmann

It depends on what you need. Many antivirus programs have their own specs and unique selling points.  A free Antivirus will suffice for some. However, we recommend purchasing a fully licensed and operational program in order to enjoy full functionality, and benefits in order to protect you from the online threats lurking around from the corners of the web.

There are a lot of things to consider when purchasing or subscribing to an Antivirus Software.  From virus detection to password protection, to parental controls, different programs each have their pros and cons.  Here, on Softvire, you can get great deals for Antivirus Programs that will help protect you from potential Malware threats online and can clean up your system and dispose of any viruses that may be hiding in the background, for the best prices possible.

Here are some of the antivirus programs that we recommend for optimal protection and safeguarding.

With over forty years of antivirus experience, Symantec is one of the leading providers of internet security today. Norton AntiVirus assures you protection from different kinds of threats that your PC may be susceptible to online.

Another popular Antivirus in the market is Avast. It happens to be the one I am currently subscribed to, and it is worth every penny. With a user-friendly interface and detailed explanation of the processes it carries out, Avast is definitely a great choice if you need protection for your data, documents, and other user’s sensitive information on your system and to make sure that your PC is always protected.

Kaspersky is one of the oldest providers of internet security in the world. With over 400 million users worldwide, it is the most popular antivirus in the world. In terms of virus detection, reliability, usability, and speed, Kaspersky is up there with the very best. After a shaky period of mediocrity and scrutiny, they have bounced back and taken a hold of the market.

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