Anti-virus, a security program that can be installed on your computer or mobile device, protects a software system against malware, or malicious software, including viruses, worms, Trojans and spyware. Anti-virus programs can prevent cyber criminals from gaining access to your keystrokes and personal documents on any operating system including Mac OS X and Linux. However, anti-virus software alone cannot fully protect devices from a malware invasion, as cyber attackers are constantly updating their tactics. It is important to invest in cybersecurity beyond anti-virus.
Anti-virus software uncovers malware through signature and behavior detection. Signature detection neutralizes malware in your system by scanning for and matching patterns of malicious behavior to a dictionary of known malware. Similar to a human immune system, signature detection requires frequent updates to keep aware of newly-developed strings of malware. Although, at the rate cyber attackers are updating them, it is impossible for anti-virus programs to detect all malware.
Behavior detection monitors the behavior of your computer software and alerts you if a program is attempting to access protected files or other suspicious activity. This protects your device from new types of malware that are not included in the dictionary. However, behavior detection can generate false warnings leading to confusion on what is acceptable and, ultimately, desensitizing the user. Additionally, the malware has typically already accessed a device’s system by the time the user has been alerted.
While anti-virus programs help protect your device against invasions, it is important to further your cybersecurity and consider the following tips:
- Take note of where your anti-virus came from. As cyber criminals commonly distribute malware disguised as anti-virus programs, get your software from a credible and trusted source.
- Frequently update your anti-virus software. In order to effectively protect your device, be sure to install the latest version of your anti-virus, renew and pay for an annual subscription and enable the anti-virus to update automatically.
- Enable your anti-virus to scan portable media automatically. Scanning foreign programs such as USB sticks in real-time furthers the protection of your device.
- Stay alert to on-screen anti-virus warnings. Take advantage of the option offered on most warnings to learn more about the alert.
- Don’t disable your anti-virus software. Even if it is slowing your computer or preventing access to a webpage or application, uninstalling an anti-virus will expose your device to otherwise avoidable security risks.
- Limit the amount of anti-virus programs installed on your device at once. Installing too many programs may cause the programs to inhibit each other.
- Become familiar with warnings produced by your anti-virus software. Cyber attackers create fake anti-virus alerts disguised as real warnings that offer to help “fix” the problem on your device. However, engaging in these websites could harm your computer.
To learn more about anti-virus software and how it can help protect your device from malware attacks, check out the following link: https://securingthehuman.sans.org/newsletters/ouch/issues/OUCH-201412_en.pdf.