A lot of jargon is thrown around when it comes to protecting your computer and devices, including antivirus and anti-malware. It begins to get confusing as to which you should be using and whether they are actually that different from one another. Here is what you need to know.
What is Antivirus Software?
Antivirus software is designed to protect against, detect, and remove viruses that have been downloaded on your computer. A virus is a code that has been placed on your computer in an effort to do malicious deeds against you by adding, deleting, or changing files that are on your computer.
The point of a virus is destruction and general frustration.
A virus is not going to take anything from your computer or device, but will attempt to ruin your device or items on it.
What is Antimalware Software?
Antimalware software performs much in the same way that antivirus software does, in that its purpose is to protect against, detect, and remove any malware that has been downloaded onto your computer or your device. There is a difference between malware and viruses, however. A virus, while destructive, is not as dangerous to you as malware is.
Malware includes things like Trojans, phishing, rootkits, and sometimes viruses as well. Malware has many forms and many ways to do harm against you or your computer, including destroying things on your device or removing things from your device in an effort to steal your information or hold items ransom in order to receive a monetary compensation from you. Antimalware software is designed to defend you against malware so nothing like that happens to you or your computer or any other device.
The Real Differences between Antivirus and Antimalware
There are some differences when you are looking to purchase antivirus and antimalware software. A common misconception is that antivirus software can protect against malware and that antimalware can protect against viruses, but really this is not always the case and it could open you up to attacks by taking for granted that one type or the other is going to keep you safe from everything. The situation gets murkier when you have software that calls itself antivirus when it really behaves as antimalware.
Viruses really had their peak in the 1990s and while they still exist in today’s world, they are the minority of things that can actually hurt your devices. Different forms of malware are more dangerous and destructive than a standard virus. But the bottom line is that some antimalware protects against viruses.
Which Type of Protection you Need
When you are shopping for a reliable kind of antivirus or antimalware software, the first thing that you need to look at is how thorough the protection that software is offering actually is. Software like Avast, which is an antivirus software, does offer protection from some forms of malware as well. Then you have McAfee, which is an antimalware company, and offers protection from malware, which they say also includes viruses. When you are trying to determine what you would like to use, you need to read what specific kinds of malware are included to make sure you are getting the most thorough protection possible. It is also important to note that some types of protection that are free or inexpensive do not protect you in every way possible and the more money you spend to upgrade the protection, the more protection they will offer.
What to Look for in Protection
There are a few things that you can look for when you are shopping for protection in order to help you decide what is right for your specific needs. These are the features that you should be looking at.
- Scanning: This means virus and malware scanning, so it will always be running in the background of anything you are using in order to watch for anything that could be harmful. Most of the antivirus and antimalware software will offer a real-time scanning feature to nip malicious software before it has downloaded or caused any harm.
- Prevents script files: Another thing the software should do is block any malicious script files before they start to run.
- Heuristic analysis: This is a method that will look out for viruses or malware that are not commonly known about yet. Antimalware software tries to stay as current as possible and keep up with cybercriminals, but of course it is hard to protect against new types of malware that have not been discovered. So having an analysis available that will still prevent against things that could be threats could also save you a lot of headache.
- Malware and virus removable: You need to make sure that your software will actually get rid of the malware as well as detecting it.
- Ransomware protection: This is one of the newest forms of malware, where the cybercriminals steal your important information and hold it ransom until you pay them off.
Antivirus and Antimalware on Mobile Devices
A common question, given the amount of time that we spend using our smartphones and tablets, is whether we can or should use antivirus or antimalware software on our mobile devices. The answer is not completely straight forward. If you use an Android or Google device, you can download software to protect your device from receiving a virus or other malware. If you use an Apple device, you cannot.
Apple states that its iOS is protected against malware and viruses well enough that more software is not warranted. They also do not allow you to download things onto your phone or device that could alter the operation of the device.
How Malware and Viruses Appear
We have spent a bit explaining how antivirus and antimalware software protects you from malicious activity, but we should also look at how the malware can get to you to begin with. There are many outlets that could lead to malware and viruses to infect your computer and devices. Malware architects are tricky and will use sneaky ways to get you to download malware onto your computer.
- Via email: One of the most effective ways of unwittingly receiving malware is through your email. What happens is you will receive an email from someone or something that looks familiar that has a file attached. The email will tell you that you need to open or download the attachment to receive whatever the email is offering. When you open the attachment, the malware will begin to download onto your computer. You can protect yourself against this by not opening emails from strange or unknown sources or if you receive an attachment that you were not expecting.
- Via removable drive: Another way that malware will make its way onto your computer is through an infected drive. This can be a flash drive or an external drive. When you connect the drive to your computer, the malware will be automatically installed. A good way to prevent this is to make sure your computer has autorun turned off so it will not automatically run malware when it is plugged in.
- Via websites: Sometimes a website will have been compromised and have malware ready to be downloaded onto your computer. If a site is requesting you install something or download something that does not make sense, it is a red flag that you should not allow it to download what it is trying to do. This is a big reason to have antimalware software installed on your computer; you can protect against surprise attacks.
- Via other software: There are instances when you are installing something on your computer, but there is malware that has been snuck into the software as a bundle. They could be disguised as an add-on, like something as simple as a toolbar or a program that looks harmless, but is actually infected. You can usually opt-out of the download and remove any add-ons that you wouldn’t want to begin with and just save yourself the unnecessary risk.
- Anything else: Really anything that can download onto your computer could contain malware or viruses, which is why you must have some kind of protection in place to ensure that you do not wind up with a compromised or infected computer.
One of the most essential things that you must remember once you have selected your antivirus or antimalware software is that you must keep it up to date. It is foolish to assume that once the software is installed that you are good to go.
Malware and viruses are an ever-changing thing and the software against them have to also be ready to evolve and change in order to ensure that you will be protected against the newest forms of malware as well as the malware that is already known about.
Cybercriminals are savvy and skilled as well as incredibly persistent in their endeavors. So as we get smarter in defenses, they look for new ways to cause harm.