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Antivirus is software that is designed to detect, protect against, and remove malware on a computer or mobile device. Originally, it was created to protect against computer viruses, but now it’s more of a general term to describe software that uses a combination of advanced technologies to protect against a variety of threats, including ransomware , spyware, and even never-before-seen zero day attacks. Early antivirus programs would compare software file signatures against a list of known viruses to see if they matched, and if so, block them.
Today, cybersecurity companies like Malwarebytes employ several different methods to detect, block, or remove malware from a device. Today, the terms antivirus and anti-malware are often used interchangeably to refer to cybersecurity software that blocks viruses and other types of malware from computers and mobile devices.
The term antivirus refers to computer viruses that were early online threats, and anti-malware refers to the term “malware,” which is an umbrella term for any kind of malicious software including viruses. Both antivirus and anti-malware typically detect and block threats, and remove any threats that make it on to a device. Both of these terms fall under the broader term ” cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity, or computer security, is a catchall term for any strategy for protecting one’s system from malicious attacks. For home users, these strategies include both antivirus and anti-malware protection, plus other means to stay safe online like browser protection or a VPN for online privacy.
For businesses and organizations, cybersecurity is a broad and important field as cybersecurity attacks continue to make headlines. Businesses often employ a number of different strategies to guard against threats, a foundational one of which is known as endpoint protection. Cybersecurity attacks often aim to do things like hold your computer hostage, steal system resources as in a botnet , record your passwords and usernames, and a whole host of other bad things.
Such attacks might occur via your hardware like a backdoor or through your software like an exploit. Attackers’ goals are often financial, to ultimately steal money or information that can be valuable to others. A computer virus is a type of malicious software with particular characteristics:.
A computer virus requires a host program, and it needs to be initiated by an unsuspecting user. Triggering a virus can be as simple as opening a malicious email attachment malspam , launching an infected program, or viewing an ad on a malicious site adware. Once that happens, the virus tries to spread to other systems on the computer’s network or in the user’s list of contacts. Computer viruses self-replicate. This process of self-replication can happen by modifying or completely replacing other files on the user’s system.
Either way, the resulting file must show the same behavior as the original virus. Notably, computer worms also self-replicate, but the difference between a virus and a worm is that viruses rely on human action for activation and need a host system to replicate. Computer viruses have been around for decades. Early viruses occurred on pre-personal computer platforms in the s. However, the history of modern viruses begins with a program called Elk Cloner , which started infecting Apple II systems in Disseminated via infected floppy disks, the virus itself was harmless, but it spread to all disks attached to a system.
It spread so quickly that most cybersecurity experts consider it the first large-scale computer virus outbreak in history. Another early problem was the Morris worm back in , but that was a computer worm rather than a computer virus. Early viruses like Elk Cloner were mostly designed as pranks.
Their creators were in it for notoriety and bragging rights. However, by the early s, adolescent mischief had evolved into harmful intent. PC users experienced an onslaught of viruses designed to destroy data, slow down system resources, and log keystrokes also known as a keylogger. The need for countermeasures led to the development of the first antivirus software programs. Early online antiviruses were reactive.
They could only detect infections after they took place. Moreover, the first antivirus programs identified viruses by the relatively primitive technique of looking for their signature characteristics. However, if the attacker changed the file name, the computer antivirus might not be as effective. While early antivirus software could also recognize specific digital fingerprints or patterns, such as code sequences in network traffic or known harmful instruction sequences, they were often playing catch-up.
Early antiviruses using signature-based strategies could easily detect known viruses, but they were unable to detect new attacks.
Instead, a new virus had to be isolated and analyzed to determine its signature, and subsequently added to the list of known viruses. Those using antiviruses online had to regularly download an ever-growing database file consisting of hundreds of thousands of signatures. Even so, new viruses that got out ahead of database updates left a significant percentage of devices unprotected.
The result was a constant race to keep up with the evolving landscape of threats as new viruses were created and released into the wild. Viruses are just one kind of malware. There are other forms of malware that are more common these days, and antivirus software is designed to defend against these. Here are just a few of today’s online threats:. Help me choose a product See business products selector See what Malwarebytes can do for you Get a free trial Get a free trial Our sales team is ready to help.
Partners Partner Icon Explore Partnerships. Partner Success Story. Resources Resources Learn About Cybersecurity. Malwarebytes Labs — Blog.
Business Resources. See Content See content. Trusted by customers worldwide. How to use antivirus for Windows Step 1 — Install Malwarebytes Premium. Step 2 — Review threats After the online virus scan, Malwarebytes reports on any threats that were found and asks if you want to remove them. Step 2 — Review threats. Step 3 — Remove threats Once you give the ok, our antivirus tool will clean up threats so your device, files, and privacy are secure. Step 3 — Remove threats. Full protection or simple cleanup?
Cleans up an already infected computer. Protects your identity and privacy from hackers. Protects your documents, financial files from ransomware. Protects you from malicious and fake websites. Stops malware that degrades computer performance. Crushes malware attacks that corrupt your programs. Suspends Malwarebytes notifications while you game.
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Malwarebytes 3. The official Malwarebytes logo The official Malwarebytes logo in a blue font. Malwarebytes free version will clean malware from your Windows PC or Mac computer.