What is antivirus software? If you have been wondering, what is antivirus software?’ you’ve come to the right place. Read on to understand everything you need to know about ‘antivirus’ software! Let’s first understand ‘what is antivirus?

  1. Definition 
  2. What is antivirus software designed for? 
  3. How does antivirus software work?
  4. Now, how does antivirus software work? And what are the uses of antivirus?
  5. What are the variants of antivirus software?
  6. Antivirus software providers
  7. Free antivirus software: Does it work?
  8. Advantages
  9. Disadvantages

1. Definition 

Initially intended for desktops, antivirus in computer systems has evolved to meet the changing needs- in devices like laptops, handheld gadgets, and many more. Designed as a preventive mechanism, ‘antivirus’ is a term used for software programs that protect your devices. It comes with curative abilities, like removing suspicious files and problem-creators. These problems could range from applications that slow down your system or the popping up unnecessary windows/ websites that pop up out of nowhere to applications that can crash your operating system completely! As technology has progressed, the graveness of the problems has also heightened.  Likewise, the types of computer antivirus have also increased. Your devices could now be the target of phishing attacks, identity threats, banking frauds, and a whole range of cybercrimes! Spine-chilling, right?

Let us understand  what is antivirus in computer terminology., Here is a dose of a geeky definition of antivirus – Margaret Rouse on TechTarget gives this antivirus software definition: Antivirus software is a class of program designed to prevent, detect and remove malware infections on individual computing devices, networks, and IT systems.”

So, according to this antivirus software meaning, these ‘good’ programs run through a tremendous amount of data like local files, web pages, other software, or apps that travel over different kinds of networks and head towards your devices. They scan them for known malware and keep a watch on all installed programs. This antivirus meaning further tells us that, these programs also earmark suspicious activities. An antivirus brings such programs/activities to your attention It also gets rid of such programs (with your permission, of course!) as soon as possible.

Now we’ve gained a basic understanding of ‘What is antivirus software?’ and have seen a tech expert define antivirus software. 

2. What is antivirus software designed for? 

Breaking the ‘what is antivirus definition’ into simpler terms- well-meaning developers worked towards developing codes that could prevent such situations. And, Voila! -packed into nifty little packages came along the ‘antivirus’ programs. These could not just prevent such problems but defend devices like desktop computers and laptops against future ‘attacks’ from codes introduced by ill-intending people (spammers/cyber thieves/ hackers) who pack codes into ‘virus’ programs or malicious software – known as ‘malware’’. 

Newer and smarter cyber threats require that the defense mechanism on your devices is not just up and working but also up-to-date with the latest in antivirus protection! For example, if your devices’ defenses contain a loophole, then they  could be at the risk of picking up a virus or spreading them., It would further allow criminals (of the cyber kind) to tweak their methods to find ways to break into your systems – and, sadly, they’re usually up to no good. Using an antivirus application is the beginning of securing your data, your device. 

3. How does antivirus software work?

We now know about antivirus software and how your devices, against security violations, call ‘foul’ and warn you about data and other threats. So, are you wondering- how does it perform all of these? Superhero powers… or not, you decide. But before that, we need to understand how viruses work. 

Have you ever got a fever or cold and got told by your physician that it’s the work of a virus?. Were you then advised to maintain a minimum contact with other people? Well, the computer virus is pretty similar. These viruses often copy themselves from one device or computer to another, spread malicious programs and codes that could penetrate and damage your operating systems. Attackers also design computer ‘viruses’ with the intent of gaining unauthorized access to the devices they prey on- monitoring and controlling activities on the unsuspecting victim’s machines

Hackers (the unethical kind) stand to gain because of their ability to access or damage devices like computers without the victim’s knowledge. is a range of common malicious software that you should be aware of too.  

 Malware could:

  • make and spread copies of itself between computer systems (#Worms).
  • steal information, sensitive, and otherwise (#Spyware).
  • extort money (#Ransomware).
  • pop-up or display advertisements (#Adware). 
  • have hidden agendas – promise one on the surface but deliver something else (#Trojans).
  • spread unsolicited emails (#Spam).

4. Now, how does antivirus software work? And what are the uses of antivirus?

Now, how does antivirus software work? And what are the uses of antivirus? Antivirus does the following main tasks:

  • pinpoints suspicious files.
  • schedules and runs scan automatically.
  • allows you to set preferences and scan entire drives or even a specific file
  • deletes malware/ blocks programs.
  • signals the health status of your computer/ devices (on which it’s installed).

5. What are the variants of antivirus software?

To deal with the evolution of viruses, multiple types of antivirus software have developed. To decide upon an apt protection mechanism, you must understand the types of antivirus and their working. Some of the different types of antivirus include:

  • Antivirus programs that tackle Malware: These scan for only known digital fingerprints of malware, detect, identify, and disable them. These are also known as ‘Malware signature antivirus’. 
  • Antivirus that monitors systems and devices:  These watch operating systems for suspicious activities that are out of the users’ usual behavior – like connecting to unfamiliar websites, a spike in data usage, or accessing a large number of files in one go. These are also known as ‘System monitoring antivirus’.

Having known the antivirus definition and types – we can understand that using one or the other only limits the protection. So, these work hand-in-hand with other antivirus apps. For instance, machine learning antiviruses tackle malware attacks on a broader range adding more layers of security for your systems. Opting for a comprehensive antivirus solution is the best.  

Among the different types of antivirus software is the ‘Windows Defender.’. Built-in with the Windows Operating system, this protects the system from conventional viruses but not malware such as ransomware. Also, since Mac operating systems are not as commonly subjected to attacks as Windows, they are considered ‘safe.’. However, the onus of exercising caution lies in the users’ hands (literally!)- Will you click that shady link in your email? Will you open an attachment from an unknown source? Beware.

6. Antivirus software providers

McAfee Total Protection, Symantec’s Norton antivirus Plus are just a few of the antivirus software examples by the private software providers at a cost. Amongst the ‘free’ list of antivirus software, AVG antivirus, Avast, and Avira antivirus are some popular ones. 

7. Free antivirus software: Does it work?

No matter how trustworthy it may seem on the surface, ‘Free antiviruses’ invariably come with the chances of unscrupulous activity tracking, advertising, and other unwanted software installations that bloat your system. This is how ‘free’ software providers make money! Also, many of them do not offer protection against identity thefts and other data security features. Ponder up it., Regardless of your choice, there are advantages and disadvantages to antivirus software. 

8. Advantages

The advantages of antivirus software are many. Antivirus software protects your systems from viruses, avoids transmission, blocks advertisements and spam, guards your data/ files, and keeps your systems clean. Some other advantages of antivirus software points include: 

  • Guarding against hackers and cyber thieves.
  • Protecting against removable devices. 
  • Speeding up your device to optimal performance.
  • Enhancing web protection.
  • Exercising parental control. 
  • Protecting your passwords.

9. Disadvantages

While you stand to gain by using a paid antivirus suite, any choice from the antivirus programs list can come with its fair share of disadvantages, such as:

  • Dependency on the technique for protection.
  • Conflicts caused due to multiple antivirus programs running simultaneously.
  • System slowdown when an apt version is not installed on smaller capacity devices.


All said and done, a virus attack is something we all can do without, and the advantages of antivirus far outweigh the cons! From interrupting your regular activities to completely crashing your system- no one wants a bite of such experiences. Having a protective mechanism is always a better route to ensure your data security and protection against a whole range of cyber threats. With many benefits of antivirus software, it would be a good idea to install an additional layer through licensed antivirus programs. That would offer you dedicated security regardless of the device/OS you use – unless, of course, you’d want to give an open invitation to the meanies out there. 

If you’re curious about learning more about handling cyberattacks and defending your devices, then Jigsaw Academy’s Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Blue Team) is all you need to feed your curiosity. It is a 520-hour-long online course, particularly focusing on defensive Cybersecurity technology.

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