Antiviruses come in many shapes and sizes, but they are quite similar in many of their features. In fact, the process of performing scans is exactly the same in all cases, whether manually or automatically. First, the antivirus software checks whether the examined element can be considered a threat by performing a signature-based analysis, which looks for specific codes or footprints that viruses usually leave behind. It will then inspect files and programs for any unusual behavior. If these tests detect an issue, then the antivirus isolates the infected elements and places them into a digital quarantine, where they can either be destroyed right away or deleted automatically after a certain period of time.
Real-Time vs On-Demand Protection
There is a clear difference between real-time and on-demand scans. Real-time scans, often also called protective shields, are considered the heart of all antivirus software because they provide continuous protection for the device that they are installed on. They aren’t as thorough as their on-demand counterparts, but when active the software can effectively check files, email attachments, and even websites in the background. It will only notify you when a potential threat is caught.
On-demand scans, on the other hand, require manual initiation. However, they are more thorough as they can scan the entire computer for threats and wipe out any that they come across. There is typically more than one scan type available with on-demand antivirus solutions. These scans can be further customized to your liking, altering their thoroughness or their schedule. Despite being more advanced and precise than their real-time counterparts, however, it’s enough to only activate on-demand scans from time to time and rely on the real-time monitoring tools. The latter focuses more on prevention rather than damage control.
Up-to-Date Virus Definitions
The reason why antivirus solutions can be so effective in recognizing and catching viruses and malware is because their virus definitions are kept up to date. This is mostly achieved through reports sent by the software users, which allows antivirus companies to add the digital signatures of any new malicious elements into their database.
For this reason, antiviruses don’t solely rely on existing threats and can also utilize methods of detecting issues to heuristic and behavioral analysis. Heuristic detection adds the capability of recognizing new, evolving threats based on the similarities between them and already known viruses. Behavioral detection helps antiviruses identify malware with unusual behavior patterns that these malicious programs are usually known for. Granted, when these methods are utilized there may be instances of so-called false positives caused by files and software that are falsely ‘accused’ of malicious intent, but in most cases antiviruses are intelligent enough to differentiate between harmless and harmful programs.
Though antiviruses are intended for Windows computers due to the higher frequency of virus infection, there are other variants available for macOS and Android users as well. However, there are some major differences. The Mac versions, for instance, lack many features of their Windows counterparts, such as the sandbox mode for safely running suspicious apps. However, they still provide all the core features associated with antivirus software, including real-time protection and some of the on-demand scans.
Android antivirus apps, on the other hand, are an entirely different story. It isn’t that easy to infect an Android device due to the built-in security solutions and the fact that Google Play removes potentially harmful apps as soon as possible. Android antivirus tools focus more on additional features, however. As such, they are actually closer to memory optimization software equipped with real-time threat monitoring and special security features like anti-theft tools.