Antivirus software is critical for the proper functioning of your computer. Period. The internet is crawling with virus software trying to damage your computer, delete important information and take whatever resources they can get their hands on. These viruses come from email, websites, advertisements, downloads, links and pretty much anywhere else you can think of that you’re in contact with on a regular basis.
There are a few main types of viruses out there. There are ‘worms’ which are programs who’s goal is to spread across a network and use up resources likely slow things down. ‘Trojans’ that try to slip in unnoticed (the name came from the Trojan horse) and perform functions on your computer without you knowing. And there is ‘malware’ which are software programs that are generally designed to spy on your activities (these are commonly classified as ‘spyware’ as well) and collect personal information. It’s important to understand these are general categories, there are no rules for the creators of these things to follow so they may combine or use different software and techniques based on what they are trying to do.
So the question stands, is your antivirus software up to date? I would guess most people don’t know. Make a resolution for 2015 to do a better job of staying on top of this. Simply add a recurring reminder to your calender monthly to spend five minutes looking at the status of your antivirus software. Is it licensed? Are the definitions up to date? Are you getting regular attacks? Is there anything quarantined? If these questions don’t make sense to you, I’ve added some more details below. Make the time to look, you’ll be glad you did.
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Antivirus definitions – as new viruses are discovered antivirus software companies update the definitions of your software to look out for those new viruses. It’s critical that your definitions are up to date, new viruses are popping up daily so you must vigilant. Most antivirus software has the ability to update these definitions automatically without your knowledge, YOU WANT THIS.
Licensing – most antivirus companies sell you a license for the software that is generally for 1 – 3 years. Usually they will make sure you know if it is going to expire, but make sure your license is up to date and active.
Quarantine – antivirus software usually has the concept of a quarantine, which is pretty much what it sounds like. The antivirus will take the offending software and hold it separately to make sure it does no harm until you make a decision on what to do with it. Generally you want it to delete or destroy the bad software, but in some rare cases it could be software that you want and the antivirus is just not familiar with it. Check your quarantine regularly.
Logs/Audit Trail – most antivirus software provides some log or audit of the activity that has happened on your computer in the recent past. You’ll want to keep an eye on this on a regular basis. It may show you that some website that you like to frequent is trying to break into your computer every time you visit.