Get antivirus software. Having software to protect your computer against malicious code is a must. There are a lot of antivirus software products on the market. Each company takes a different approach with different methods and implementations of combatting threats. One thing they all do is search the files on your computer by comparing those files with virus definitions created by the antivirus company. This is why it is very important any antivirus program you use provides daily updates of the definition files.
The product you choose should be compatible with your current operating system. They should also have a clear history of keeping their product compatible with new operating systems quickly. There should be a minimal time gap between the time a new version of your operating system is released and their product is compatible. If you do not have the most current version of your operating system the antivirus product you choose should be compatible with it, along with the next version of your operating system.
Your antivirus software should provide real time scanning as well as just scheduled scans. Antivirus software needs to be able to block infected sites, popups, and scripts if you unwittingly execute them. If it does not do this then what’s the point of having it? Real time scans also includes scanning documents before opening, programs when they start and your computer when it starts. The best programs will also warn you before a website loads, if the site is a known danger and could infect your computer. Scheduled scans are important as well. The product you choose should allow scheduling of a full deep scan every night when your computer is not being used, along with a scan when your computer boots up.
Another must have is Heuristic scanning. This type of scanning looks at the behavior of a file. Antivirus software with heuristic scanning abilities will look beyond just the contents of a file. It will look at how the code in the file will behave. Heuristic scanners identify the steps all malware take, watching for any file that exhibits this type of behavior.
The large email providers (Yahoo mail, GMail, Hot mail, etc.) scan your email when it hits their server. When you log into their web portal they also scan attachments before you download or open them. The real threat occurs when you use an email client like Outlook Express, Outlook, Eudora, etc. to manage your email. People use email clients because they offer many advantages to manage your email that make them more beneficial than a provider’s web portal. If you use an email client then make sure your antivirus program includes email scanning; especially scanning of email attachments.
Make sure your antivirus program has instant messaging protection. In the digital world any means people use to communicate with might be exploited by a criminal as a path to breaking in. Just because you do not use instant messaging does not mean you should overlook this feature. What you do on your computer today may change over time. If other people use your computer you do not know if they are using chat or not, so not having this feature may cause you major regrets. Also, a computer security company that has gone the extra distance to cover multiple links into your computer is more serious about your protection than those that have not taken these precautions.
One of the most convenient ways to send files is to compress them first. This shrinks the size of the file. The smaller the file size the faster it will send. Unfortunately compressed files make it harder for antivirus scanners to find a virus inside. This challenge of viewing what is inside the multitude of compression and archival formats has not gotten easier over the years. Make sure your antivirus software can scan compressed the file types listed here and more.
File-open scanning happens when your antivirus software scans a file you open, a CD/DVD/Blu-ray disk inserted in the drive or a USB drive you plug in. What good would your antivirus software be if it didn’t scan items when they are opened? The drawback to this is the amount of time it takes to open files. This brings us to the next thing you must know.
Know how the product you choose affects system performance. Real time scans, file-open scans, background scans all will use system resources. This will affect your computers performance. You want to be safe, but you do not want to sacrifice the joys of operating your computer to get that safety. So know if the software is too unwieldy for your system. Having to increase your computers RAM is easy as well as inexpensive. However, you should not use any program that requires anymore hardware improvements than upgrading your RAM.
Make sure the product comes with regular updates. Cyber criminals are creative. They are constantly changing tactics. They are always creating new viruses, or improving old ones. With this in mind you should only be looking at antivirus programs that provide regular updates to its definition files. Daily updates are best. Weekly updates are the minimum. Some thing to remember about updates, the frequency of the updates will not matter if you do not enable the live update feature of the product.
There are agencies that certify antivirus programs. There are also organizations that test antivirus software. After you narrow your choices down look at what they have to say about your choices. There is the Virus Bulletin, Westcoast Labs, ISCA Labs, AV Test, AV Comparatives and NSS Labs.
You should also test the final choices your left with. Reputable antivirus makers will offer free trials. Once you are comfortable that the few products left meet all of the criteria above test them. See how your computer system interacts with the new software. Every ones system is different. Not everyone has the same hardware, software or uses their computer the same. It’s important to know how the antivirus software program affects your normal usage.