A crucial part of cybersecurity is antivirus software, and most people generally understand why antivirus software is essential. But not many folks are actually conscious of how antivirus software works, and the way it fights threats to keep users protected.

Here at Live Happy Water, we compare lots of the best antivirus software to notify consumers which products offer the best protection and security tools for the money. The landscape of malware threats has changed considerably through time, and so antivirus products have emerged too.

Many companies offer additional security features like VPNs, password vaults, sandbox environments, and other methods of maintaining a user safe. But in the long run, the principal defense is powerful antivirus protection, and in this report, we’re going to explain precisely how antivirus software works.

This information will be applicable to many businesses, as not all antivirus products utilize a traditional approach to virus scanning, but we’ll clarify the most popular methods antivirus software used to fight threats.

Signature-based detection

Broadly, antivirus software uses two key kinds of threat detection. The first is signature-based detection, which essentially means the antivirus will check documents and programs for known virus behavior. When you launch documents and apps, the antivirus immediately scans the directions being sent to the computer, to determine if the document is attempting to run any code that’s a touch of known viruses.

Signature databases are often stored locally, but a lot of antivirus companies are starting to keep their virus signature databases from the cloud. This is because people don’t always maintain their signature definitions current, and the cloud provides a much quicker, more convenient means of delivering the most recent virus definitions into the end-user.

Additionally, it permits the end-user to send virus information back to the company to be relegated to the rest of the user-base much quicker, but we will touch on that later.

Heuristic analysis

The second kind of protection is called heuristic analysis. What this essentially means is that if a file or program is launched, the antivirus software scans it for virus-type behavior. Therefore, even if an application doesn’t include any known virus signatures, the antivirus software will still flag it if the program performs behavior much like a virus.

By way of instance, if an app tries to establish a background command prompt and run commands that change critical system files, this is obviously a huge red flag. This is how the virus signature database is updated frequently, especially cloud-based signature databases. With a lot of new malware being published daily, companies rely on heuristic scanning results from the end-user to detect these new dangers and add them to the database.

This is a powerful form of maintaining all users safe. By way of instance, if someone in South Korea downloads a previously unknown malware, which can be captured by the antivirus program’s heuristic analysis, pretty much everybody around the world is currently protected from that identical malware threat, as it has added to the signature database.

Other forms of protection

Signature databases and heuristic analysis are the most immediate techniques of antivirus protection, but contemporary antivirus applications are using many different approaches to protecting the end-user. This is because, in today’s era, malware infection methods have developed. From the early days of the internet, many viruses have been spread through malicious software downloads or email attachments. That has not changed since it’s still possible to find several websites serving up infected downloads, especially sites that provide illegally pirated software.

However, manually launch infected documents is no longer the principal threat. These days, many malware threats can actually come through only the mere act of seeing infected sites, typically via scripts and plugins that exploit security holes in the browser, or shared browser plugins like JavaScript and Flash.

By way of instance, imagine you are surfing the web with no sort of antivirus protection. You visit a site for pirated software but don’t actually download anything. Yet somehow, your computer still becomes infected with malware. This is because malware could be delivered via malicious scripts, and even banner ads, running on the site. Yes, malware could absolutely be embedded in banner ads, a practice is called malvertising.

This is the reason the majority of antivirus companies are providing additional forms of security beyond conventional regional scanning. Ad blocking, VPNs, and dwell website scanning all serve to protect the consumer when surfing the net. Sometimes, that has a very slight influence on the rate of loading webpages. You could have a 50Mbps fiber connection, yet websites do not immediately load.

This is due to the fact that the antivirus software is scanning the web site for hidden scripts being implemented, and loads the website fully only after it has passed the test. To give you a frequent example, cryptojackers became extremely popular recently. Cryptojackers are website scripts which try to hijack your computer’s resources, especially the CPU, to mine cryptocurrency.

So in case you stop by a shady site and detect your CPU usage suddenly spikes exceptionally high for no apparent reason, it is a fantastic sign the web site is running some type of cryptojacker script.

Why false flags occur in antivirus software

False flags or false positives in antivirus software are when a document or program is detected by the antivirus as being a threat as it is in fact not. Some antivirus products set out a lot more false flags than others, and we are going to explain why. It boils down to the antivirus program’s security settings and general sensitivity to what the company considers “virus type behavior”.

So for instance, let’s say you download applications for the express purpose of changing key Windows files, for theming the complete Windows GUI. Not only new mouse cursors and background, but there’s also software which permits you to fully change the appearance of taskbars, the Start menu, etc..

When you run these programs that try to modify or change important Windows files, the antivirus software instantly detects this as a threat, and quarantines (or completely removes) the offending software, to the chagrin of the end-user. As we mentioned, this is because some antivirus software is configured to have very strict security.

The consumer, of course, typically always has control over the security settings, and may even add folders and files into the antivirus’ Whitelist, which essentially teaches the antivirus software to ignore these folders and files during scans.