tips on making the most of your antivirus software

How To Make The Most Of Your Antivirus Software

While we continue to explore and journey the path to becoming the hardest target we can, we need to consider what we can do to make our antivirus software the most effective possible. This is known as optimizing your antivirus software. Optimizing antivirus software is cybersecurity basic that you can do yourself.

While we continue to explore and journey the path to becoming the hardest target we can, we need to consider what we can do to make our antivirus software the most effective possible. This is known as optimizing your antivirus software. Optimizing antivirus Software is a Cyber Security Basic that you can do it yourself.

antivius software on laptops and computers

Here is a list of things you can do today to enhance your cybersecurity posture.

What is Antivirus Software (AV)?

Let’s think of antivirus software as the white blood cells of your computer. Just like in your body, these “cells” identify and attack unwanted viruses. Additionally, once the antivirus software (AV) has identified these malicious files, it removes and quarantines them so they cannot infect the system further. AV is updated by the software provider using something called ‘definitions. These ‘definitions’ are made up of a list of known malicious files to the AV community. When a new piece of malware is identified, it’s hash, or unique DNA, is added to the list of ‘definitions’ and sent to the end-users (you) to update your protection on your computer.

There are many AV software options to choose from, some free and some paid. The most important things you need to have are the following: Real-Time Protection (a constant scanning of your system vs only scanning when clicked on demand), and an Automatic Update (an automatic download of the newest/latest definitions when they become available).

What threats do antivirus programs keep us safe from?

Antivirus software programs protect against several types of malware:

  • Viruses are malicious software in camouflaged as user files. They are designed to access computers without consent or knowledge from users and usually intended to steal information, delete documents or change settings.
  • Computer worms are programs capable of replicating functional copies of themselves through a network, with the aim of causing both computers and computer networks to collapse. One of the most successful worm attacks took place in 2000 and infected over 50 million computers, causing losses totaling over €5 billion. It spread as an ’email’ message with the subject line “ILOVEYOU” and the attachment “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbs.” Opening the attachment executed the code, hijacking the host computer and forwarding the message to all the user’s email addresses. Thus, it spread across the world in just 24 hours.
  • ‘Trojans’ are a type of ‘malware’ concealed under the appearance of legitimate software that works properly. When executed, a Trojan allows the attacker to access the computer, and even to control it remotely.
  • Spyware’ is, as its own name indicates, a spy program that infects computers and devices to collect all sorts of user information: habits, personal information, bank information, etc. Keyloggers are a type of spyware: a malicious program that, once installed, records all keystrokes made by the user. This technique is widely used to steal credentials.
  • Ransomware is a type of malware that hijacks the information stored in the computer, perpetually encrypting and blocking the files unless their Rightful owners pay a ransom. The biggest ‘ransomware’ attack took place in 2017. The WannaCry ransomware cryptoworm infected thousands of computers in more than one hundred countries and resulted in costs estimated at more than €200 million.

How do viruses spread?

The most common way viruses find their way onto computers is through emails. All it takes is for the user to download an attachment or install a program downloaded via a malicious link to get the host computer infected with malicious code. To prevent this from happening, it is very important:

  • Be wary of emails that may seem in any way suspicious (from unknown senders, unexpected emails urging to take action, containing an unusual amount of spelling errors or awkward sentences.)
  • Activate ‘antispam’ filters to block unwanted or harmful mail and be careful when opening an email tagged as such.
  • Think twice before downloading attachments.
  • Before clicking on a link included in an email, hover over the mouse to check the address to which it redirects.
  • Another typical vector of infections is any piece of software downloaded from unofficial sources devices when downloading and installing programs that come from untrustworthy sites, that appear in pop-up windows or in advertising or included in emails from unknown senders.
  • Plugging infected external devices to your computer – normally a ‘pendrive’, disk drive, or any device that you are not sure where it came from or lent to you by other people – is another typical way of getting your computer infected. And also vice versa: When you plug your devices into unknown sources such as public charging stations.

How effective are antivirus?

There are no fully effective methods to protect users against 100 percent of online ‘malware’ threats. Cybercrime is a very lucrative, ever-evolving business. To keep up, antivirus companies need to constantly update their signature databases and quickly come up with new detection algorithms to detect new threats as they emerge.

Antivirus alone is not enough to protect your computer. You need to develop safe habits and never let your guard down against social engineering attacks, such as phishing emails and vishing attacks via phone call. In short, an antivirus cannot protect you against deception techniques used in social engineering assaults.

On which devices should you install an antivirus?

The number of connected devices and appliances grows on a daily basis and they are all exposed to being infected with some type of ‘malware’.

Besides laptop and desktop computers, it is highly advisable to use antivirus software on mobile devices such as ‘smartphones’ and tablets, and on any connected devices. There are already some antivirus programs that monitor household data traffic to protect cameras, SmartTVs, printers, consoles, etc.

Which antivirus should you choose?

There are plenty of free and paid security alternatives in the market. The Internet Security Office publishes a comprehensive analysis of the free antivirus suites available and their features, to help users choose the one that better meets their needs. Most of these free antivirus also offer subscription services for additional features such as password managers and automatic program updates. In addition, paid antivirus platforms do not show ads.

Users can also check many articles online that rank the best antivirus suites based on the results they have earned in technical tests. One example is the list published by specialized publication Virus Bulletin or, which also collects user opinions.

For more general advice on computer, tablet, and smartphone maintenance, American nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has published a comprehensive privacy protection guide on its website.

What type of maintenance does an antivirus require?

The only maintenance antivirus software programs require is to enable periodic updates. New virus threats emerge every day from all across the globe. As soon as they are detected and analyzed, antivirus publishers include them in their signature databases to effectively protect users’ computers, devices, and objects connected to the Internet.

In conclusion, antivirus programs are becoming increasingly sophisticated and provide a very high level of security: they are, without a doubt, the best ally users can rely on to protect themselves from ‘malware’ attacks and their consequences. But remember: the first link in the security chain is still the individual.

Optimizing  Antivirus Software

In order to make sure that antivirus software is working effectively for our systems, we need to ask ourselves two important questions:

  • Is the antivirus software continuously running while operating the system?
  • When was the last time it was updated on the system?

If either answer to the above questions is no, then you are not optimizing the effectiveness of your antivirus software!

How to Optimize Antivirus Software

Real-time protection for antivirus software needs to always be turned on. This is a very simple thing to do but easily forgotten. For example, ‘Microsoft Security Essentials’ calls this feature “Real-time protection”. Simply go into settings, select real-time protection, and ensure that it is turned on. This feature should automatically be turned on upon the initial set up of antivirus software, however, follow up is the key. Make sure it is on. You wouldn’t pay for a home security system and not actually arm the alarm in your home, would you?

In addition to making sure that the real-time protection is turned on to optimize the antivirus software, make sure that you continue to update your antivirus software regularly. How can you be sure that you have the most up to date definitions? You can do this by going into the settings of the antivirus software and simply looking at the date and time it was last updated and compare it to when the newest definition was added by said antivirus software.

As a best practice, you can easily go in and manually update it daily at the same time so you don’t forget, even when it is automatically scheduled to do so.

Installing Antivirus on Your PC

At some point, viruses or malware are going to try to infect your computer.

Hopefully, you’ll have the right software installed on your computer to prevent the attack. Below are some recommendations for privately and university-owned Windows computers.

First, you need to have a quality antivirus product running on your computer.

Free virus protection for your personal computer

  • For Windows, BSU recommends Microsoft Security Essentials.
  • Installation: (Note: Windows 8 and Windows 10 have Microsoft’s antivirus installed already.)
  • Uninstall any existing virus protection software by using the Add/Remove Programs utility in the control panel of your computer.
  • Uninstall any existing virus protection software by using the Add/Remove Programs utility in the control panel of your computer.
  • Go to MS Security Essentials and download the appropriate version for your computer.
  • Follow the installation wizard to install the program on your computer.
  • Run the program and do a complete scan of your computer.  Follow any recommendations.
  • Make sure to run updates and scan your computer regularly to ensure full protection

Purchased antivirus

trend micro internet securityThere are many antivirus software products you can purchase. Some common ones include: Trend Micro, Symantec, McAfee, AVG, or Kaspersky.

Be careful!  There are many fake (and dangerous) anti-virus or malware removal tools that masquerade as legitimate.

Be vigilant:

  • Be careful before you open an email attachment.  Even it appears to come from someone you know.  If you weren’t expecting it, check with the sender before proceeding.
  • Keep your computer software up to date.  Run updates and scans often.

There is no perfect antivirus program. Vigilance and consistent computer maintenance is the best defense.

Final Words

Antivirus will still be an important part of anyone’s cybersecurity strategy this coming 2021. And to access the full potential of this program, there are ways to optimize your antivirus. Follow our tips and you’ll be able to protect your digital asets and devices.

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