Antivirus is software for your computer. It has one purpose: To save you heartache, time, and possibly money.
Most computer programs have been designed to help you get something done, create something new, or entertain you. Antivirus, however, is the kind of software that sits quietly in a corner and watches everything that happens. It’s not fun; it’s not entertaining; it won’t help you create anything new. If it does its job, you’ll rarely—if ever—hear from it.
Antivirus programs search for malicious software, stop it from harming your computer, and, if possible, remove it. A decent one will stop the damage before it happens. It can help, even if it doesn’t know which virus it’s stopping or what the virus is trying to do.
Why Antivirus Exists
According to several sources, the first computer virus was created in 1987 by a couple of brothers who were tired of people making illegal copies of their software. They created the virus to prevent it from happening. It seems simple enough, and maybe even harmless, but it opened the door to the idea. And, like all ideas, once they’ve started, they tend to take on a life of their own.
Later in 2005, Sony (yes, that Sony) created one to keep people from copying their CDs. The software would install itself without the user knowing as soon as the user attempted to play the CD in their computer. Worse, the virus opened security holes that made it easier for other viruses to get in. Once researchers discovered the virus, the US government got involved, and a class-action lawsuit followed.
In-between these events, virus creators released tens of thousands of other viruses. Ransomware, which is one kind of computer virus, has caused an estimated $11 billion in damages so far. MyDoom, another virus, was spread through email and cost an estimated $38 billion in damages. It’s safe to assume that so far, the total is far above several hundred billion dollars worldwide.
What is a Computer Virus?
Computer viruses are nothing more than computer programs that do bad things on purpose. Unlike some programs which are just poorly written, computer viruses are purpose-built machines of destruction. They have been designed to hide from you, steal, and destroy. They’re Vikings invading and pillaging your computer for whatever you’ve got.
The first computer virus was meant to keep people from illegally copying software. Sony created one to keep people from illegally copying their music. Sony was responsible for creating the very first “boot sector” virus. Once they proved this new technique was possible, others started copying them, and now there are more than a dozen of these boot-sector viruses.
Other viruses can hold your business or personal data hostage if you don’t pay the virus creator. If you don’t pay in time, your data is gone forever.
What’s worse is nefarious programmers are creating, updating, improving, and changing computer viruses every day. There’s a good chance that right now, some programmer is putting final touches on a new threat to your peace of mind. They’ll deploy the viruses by sending them out disguised as good software, or hacking into powerful online networks for hundreds or thousands of computers to send them out to a multitude of people all at once.
What Can I Do to Protect My Computer?
Glad you asked! The primary way to protect your computer from computer viruses is to install, update, and use a quality antivirus program. They aren’t all good, and some are only slightly better than worthless. Some aren’t real antivirus programs at all. They pretend to find viruses on your computer and (after you pay them) pretend to remove the infections. These often look professional and have snappy antivirus-sounding names.
A good antivirus will also have the ability to detect when a program it doesn’t recognize begins behaving the same way a computer virus does. This ability is essential because one of the tactics programmers use to try to outsmart antivirus programs is to make the viruses look different than any other virus even if they’re essentially all the same.
Try to imagine someone makes you a sandwich. But, the bread is purple, and the stuff inside is green. Some might say it is a disaster and wouldn’t want to take a bite out of it. Others might be intrigued and want a closer look. That is what a good antivirus does. It sees something new, and instead of ignoring or dismissing it, it takes a closer look to see if it is a threat. If the sandwich grows legs and starts running around, the antivirus squashes it.
Are Good Antivirus Programs Perfect?
Simply put, no. However, quality antivirus will quarantine a suspicious program or file. It means the software sets the suspicious object aside, locks it in a cage, and does not let anyone near it until you, the user, can get a better look at it. Unfortunately, even the best antivirus programs sometimes quarantine things that should not be locked away. If that happens, it can cause computers to misbehave and programs to crash when you try to use them.
Most antivirus programs tell you when they have quarantined an item or program, where it was when they found it, and a recommendation of what you should do next. You can either leave the offending object in quarantine and forget about it, or you can delete it. However, if it turns out the object wasn’t a virus, you might end up crippling your computer or ruining software, which you’d then have to repair, reinstall, or abandon.
Which Antivirus Does TekStop Recommend?
We recommend partnering with us to provide you with the best managed antivirus software. With our system, we install a top-tier antivirus that will continuously monitor your computer for suspicious activity. It will also perform scans and updates without you having to do anything except turn your computer on. Using our service, we will be able to monitor what it’s doing, and we can often spot a problem before our customers even notice.