Computers are everywhere throughout our lives, from assisting us play and work, to monitoring hospital patients and controlling critical manufacturing processes. However, this convenience comes with a cost because more devices based on computers are a target for malicious coders.

Antivirus protection scans files and programs to identify potential threats. It acts as a real time shield against cyber attacks. It is able to identify infected files and applications by their distinctive signature – a few lines of assembly code that modify the stack pointer for instance – and compares them to an existing database of malware. If the program matches the antivirus software, it will stop it from running or shifts it to quarantine so it can be thoroughly scanned and analyzed.

Unfortunately, the creators of malicious software frequently create new programs with subtler and different telltale signatures. Antivirus software must be updated their databases. The good news is that once a virus is recognized and added to the database of detection it becomes more difficult for hackers to make use of that same signature against other computers.

The most reliable antivirus programs contain several features to protect you from an array of malware threats. They include:

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