But with every advancement comes a plethora of challenges, and software is of no exception. The bad guys in this booming industry are known as hackers. The programs they develop are malicious and created with the sole purpose of stealing, manipulating or destroying data. This is known collectively as malware.
Malware infiltrates a computer or network of devices without anyone’s knowledge or consent. The number of malware in the wild today is infinite, but each of these programs share a common goal of subduing the information system on which they are deployed. The realization of how much we’ve come to depend on software in our society reveals a void that can only be filled by protecting our hardware and digital assets. Enter Anti-malware.
Anti-malware—also known as anti-virus (AV) software—are utility programs that detect and prevent viruses from invading your computer. Should you install an anti-malware app on your computer or mobile device after it has been infected, it is usually capable of quarantining the malware in question. An ideal solution, however, would also be able to repair any damage which may have resulted from the compromise.
While some experts suggest that some anti-malware applications can do more harm than good, most agree that some form of security is one of the best investments a user can make towards securing their data, computer and/or mobile device. Not just for the aforementioned reasons—which are significant—but for the luxuries of real-time reporting and blocking of malicious websites. For a small premium, users can obtain an app that will run continuously as a background process and instantly blacklist infected websites, whether they were created maliciously or victimized by malware themselves.
Viruses and compromised programs are detected in a number of ways, including signatures, heuristics and sandboxing. Signatures, which are sometimes called “definitions,” describe the set of processes for recognizing malware. If an anti-malware app is able to match a virus with a signature it holds in its database, it will then flag it as potential threat.
The signature approach is used by many security apps and is undoubtedly a proven method for removing malware, but requires regular updates so that newly developed malware can be tracked. The heuristic way makes up for this by identifying viruses by their behavior and characteristics (i.e. stealthiness , ability to reproduce, etc). This approach, in itself, offers some real-time capabilities in the fight against malware.
Finally, the sandboxing method utilizes protected space on a computer or device. If any program is suspected to be malicious, it is run in this area so that its behavior can be monitored. All programs carry out their instructions unwittingly, and the idea of this encapsulated space is to provide a platform for them to do so. If any malicious activity is detected, the program is terminated; otherwise it is allowed to execute outside the sandbox.
But even with these advanced features, there are still some viruses that will cause more damage if they are removed upon detection. Quarantining is used to overcome this challenge. Like sandboxing, this method isolates the virus in a safe area within your computer’s storage. This keeps it from inflicting additional damage and allows you to remove it at a later date. After the scanning and quarantining process, many anti-malware apps will prompt you to reboot your computer so that the virus can be removed immediately.
Installing and regularly scanning your computer with an anti-malware app is not only critical for your digital well-being, but affords you the enjoyment of a safe user experience as you frequent your favorite websites and mobile apps. Your data is just as valuable as any real asset so protect it at all costs!
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