What is an anti­virus?

An anti­virus is a useful piece of soft­ware for detecting and removing malware, such as computer viruses. Read more about why you should equip all of your internet-connected devices with an anti­virus.

What is an antivirus?

Anti­virus protects you from malicious soft­ware

The online world is full of viruses and other advanced threats that are used to prey on individual users. Malicious soft­ware, or malware for short, is used to steal users’ financial information and login credentials in addition to corrupting files on the victim’s device. The source of malware can be for example an innocent-looking email attachment, a disguised link sent to you on social media or a free piece of down­loadable soft­ware.

You can avoid many of these threats just by being careful and well-informed about the most common cyber threats. However, some­times even great care is not enough and that is when you need an anti­virus to protect your devices. In addition to computer viruses, anti­virus also keeps you safe against many common threats, such as ransom­ware, trojans, adware and phishing attacks.

How does anti­virus soft­ware work?

The main task of anti­virus soft­ware is to keep your computer or mobile device safe against viruses and other malware. There are a few different ways an anti­virus can keep your sensitive information, money and valuable files protected.

  • Detecting potentially harmful files and programs
  • Removing malicious soft­ware from your device
  • Quarantining suspicious files found on your device

In case you are suspicious about a file or program on your device, you can scan it for viruses and other malware. If your anti­virus soft­ware detects a security threat, such as a computer virus, it can contain and remove the infected file. Consider running a regular virus check on your computer or mobile device to make sure that there is no harmful soft­ware hiding.

There are different methods that security soft­ware for computers and mobile devices uses to detect malicious code and other online threats. Signature-based detection uses a database of known tell‑tale signs, or signatures, of different malware. These are unique patterns or characteristics that can be used to identify a piece of malware. Real‑time monitoring used by anti­virus soft­ware is constantly on the lookout for suspicious and malicious behavior. If some­thing is detected, the anti­virus alerts the user and stops the threat before it can do any harm.

Is your device infected with a computer virus

There are some common signs of a computer virus infection. These include:

  • Slow performance of the device
  • Unexpected crashing and freezing
  • Intrusive pop‑up ads and programs
  • Apps and toolbars that you did not install
  • Suspicious activity on your email account
  • The device’s battery drains fast in normal use

Many of these issues are not necessarily caused by a computer virus. You should still run a virus scan with your security soft­ware on your computer or mobile device to make sure that there is not a virus lurking on your device.

Unfortunately, many computer viruses can be difficult or impossible to detect without the help of anti­virus. Luckily, by using reliable anti­virus soft­ware, you can prevent computer virus infections from happening in the first place. In addition to infecting your device, online criminals can use viruses and other malware to steal money, personal information and pass­words to your accounts. The only sure way to prevent your devices from getting infected is with an anti­virus.

Anti­virus vs internet security

Are anti­virus and internet security just two words for the same thing? Not entirely. Although both can protect you against malware, such as computer viruses, internet security provides more features and comes with many additional tools that an anti­virus generally lacks.

Features of an internet security solution may include parental control tools to protect children and other family members from harmful content on the internet. This also allows parents to set limits on screen time or block certain applications and web­sites altogether.

Internet security solutions also have more features tailored to specific uses, such as online banking or gaming. Mean­while, the main purpose of an anti­virus is to detect, block and remove viruses. Therefore, an internet security solution is more comprehensive and advanced when compared to an anti­virus.

Do mobile devices need anti­virus soft­ware?

Just like desktop computers, modern mobile phones with internet connection and other smart features need anti­virus protection. Because mobile devices are also connected to the internet, they are susceptible to many of the same threats as computers. Online criminals use similar tricks to deceive users on both types of devices, for example sending them links that take the user to a malicious website. When this is done using text messages it is known as smishing (short for SMS phishing).

Mobile devices, such as smart­phones, are nowadays used more and more for online banking and shopping. This is why you should protect them with anti­virus soft­ware just like your computer. For instance, some of the more sophisticated pieces of mobile malware can disguise them­selves as legitimate banking apps. These so‑called banking trojans are used to bypass two‑factor authentication and get access to the victim’s online bank.

The best anti­virus programs can be used both on your mobile devices and desktop computers with the same subscription. There is anti­virus soft­ware for both Android and iOS devices.

What about free anti­virus soft­ware?

Free anti­virus soft­ware can provide basic protection with some simple features for detecting potentially harmful soft­ware. Just like free VPN soft­ware, free anti­virus programs down­loaded from the internet are not a safe option. In fact, free anti­virus soft­ware may pose a security risk, instead of securing your devices. Another benefit of paid premium anti­virus soft­ware is that it stays up to date with the latest security threats that other simpler programs are not prepared for.

More basic free anti­virus soft­ware will not provide extensive customer service or proper real‑time protection for your device. They may also lack support for multiple devices with a single subscription, including mobile devices.

In case you would like to try an anti­virus on your device, see if you can find a reliable service provider that offers a free trial for their anti­virus. In the best‑case scenario, you’ll get full access to all features without having to commit to any­thing before making a decision.

An advanced security soft­ware for all devices

Equip your devices with F‑Secure Total for full online protection. The anti­virus soft­ware in Total keeps you safe, whether on desktop or mobile, as you browse the internet, do your online shopping, gaming, stream content and more. With additional features, such as parental controls, Total’s anti­virus protection defends the whole family from online threats. Total also comes with a versatile VPN for private browsing, identity protection tools and a pass­word manager to make logging in with strong pass­words simple. Try F‑Secure Total for free and test all the features your­self.

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