Should You Buy an Anti-Virus?

Safety is a major concern on the Internet.  All it takes is one visit to a sketchy website to ruin your device.  But how do we protect our computers from potential harm?  Using common sense can save you from most troubles.  For example, you shouldn’t click a random link in an e-mail from someone you don’ know.

Unfortunately, we all make mistake from time to time.  An experienced system admin can still get a virus on his computer from a simple mistake, that’s why you should always depend on an anti-virus.What exactly is an anti-virus, and why is it important? Let’s start with defining the term “anti-virus”.

1.   What exactly is an anti-virus?

When your computer is infected with a virus, your computer itself doesn’t know.  Computers aren’t sentient.  Acknowledging this, companies have manufactured software known as anti-viruses.

These anti-viruses are tools that your computer can use to detect any threats to your system.  This is not to be confused with anti-malware.  While anti-viruses can detect malware, anti-malware CANNOT detect viruses.

2.   Ok, so how do they work?

When you download a program or click a sketchy link, your computer adopts a “no questions asked” policy.  While convenient, this method isn’t secure.  Anti-viruses adopt their own policies for your own good.

Programs or files that get downloaded to your system must pass a security check, done by the anti-virus.  The anti-virus will proceed to reference a database of known viruses and malware. If any of these are found in the files, the process in question is stopped.  This is when the anti-virus notifies you of the potential threat.

Now, you’re probably wondering how an anti-virus can protect you from unknown viruses.  The short answer is a process known as heuristics. Heuristics is a process where an anti-virus tests and spectates a file or program when it is opened.  If a file is infected, it will exhibit strange behavior.  Examples of this strange behavior include rapid replication, modifying unrelated files, and opening other files/programs.

Once the anti-virus notices this strange behavior, it treats the file just the same as known threats.  From then on, the now-known virus is reported to the company that owns the anti-virus so they can update security parameters.

Now, there are other ways heuristics are used,though these other processes are only used in more advanced anti-virus solutions.  These advanced solutions can isolate files in their own sandbox, so no harm can’t be done.  There are varying options depending on the type of anti-virus you buy, so be sure to research the anti-virus’ operations.

3.   Yes, but why exactly do I need one?

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, mistakes happen.  No matter how much common sense you possess, viruses and malware can hide in any program they want.

Certain video games on Steam have been known to possess spyware, and I highly doubt you planned on buying malware.  An anti-virus program will be able to detect what you can’t, making this tool invaluable.

On the other hand, some people question the effectiveness of anti-virus programs.  If you regularly spend time on tech forums, you might notice ranting about McAfee or Norton, two prominent anti-virus solutions. Not all anti-virus programs are equal to each other, that much is true. Luckily, we don’t have to play Russian roulette when it comes to choices, as many websites have documented success rates.  As long as you do perform proper research,you can’t make a bad choice.

4.   What if I Still don’t get one?

If after all this you still don’t want to download an anti-virus program, there are still other protective measures you can take to protect yourself from harm.

The first option is to keep your system updated.  Honestly, you should be doing this anyway.  Keeping your operating system updated will make sure any holes in security are patched.

Don’t stop updating at the operating system level.  Keeping your BIOS updated is extremely important as well.  A computer’s BIOS doesn’t require constant updating, but the few updates that coexist are usually for hardware and security vulnerabilities.  This is especially true on brand new hardware that hasn’t been tested properly.

One other form of protection you can use is turning Windows Firewall on.  The firewall is meant to keep threats from infecting your computer through network-related issues.  Think of a firewall like…a wall.  Pretty self-explanatory, right?  A firewall focuses on external threats, while an antivirus focuses on internal threats.  Having the firewall on is vital to your system.

Lastly, common sense is a lifesaver.  I’ve already mentioned it a few times now,but most threats can be avoided through logical thinking.  If a website looks sketchy leave.  If a stranger sends you an e-mail with a sketch link, don’t click it.  Simple, but effective.

5.   So, should I buy an anti-virus?

Maybe or maybe not.  The answer depends on how you plan on using the anti-virus program.  If you want the best of the best and plan on using it for company-wide operation, you might want to spend money on an anti-virus solution.

If you plan on using an anti-virus for personal computer use, payment isn’t really needed.  Many popular anti-viruses are free to use for basic operations.  Windows even comes with its own anti-virus solution, Windows Defender.

My personal recommendation is to install a quality anti-virus and pair it with a good anti-malware solution.  While an anti-virus can detect malware, it’s better to be safe than sorry.  I use Avast as my anti-virus, with Malware bytes as my anti-malware.

One thing to note is that even free anti-virus software can have paid options.  Avast will scan and take care of viruses for you but paying for a membership can give you access to more options.  An anti-virus is essential for any computer, that’s a fact. The only thing you must decide is which one you need.

 About the Author:

Jack is an accomplished cybersecurity expert with years of experience under his belt at TechWarn, a trusted digital agency to world-class cybersecurity companies. A passionate digital safety advocate himself, Jack frequently contributes to tech blogs and digital media sharing expert insights on topics such as whistle blowing and cybersecurity tools. https://www.techwarn.com/author/jack-warner/

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