A Look at Antivirus and Anti-Malware Programs

Computer Chip
Chris Thompson
Staff Reporter

Protecting sensitive information online is one of the cornerstones of safe internet practices. Cyber crime is continually on the rise and as technology becomes more and more advanced, so too do the methods use to infect users' devices. Some of the easiest ways to help protect a computer from dangerous files and harm is the installation of antivirus and anti-malware software. Viruses and malware, though similar, are not the same.

Viruses are dangerous pieces of coding that are programmed to replicate and infect computers from within, without the user's knowledge. They do so by attaching themselves to other files and applications and are executed whenever that program is opened. Malware, on the other hand, is more of a generalized umbrella term that encompasses virus, spyware (ie. keyloggers that track what keys you press on your keyboard and can capture your passwords), adware (codes that trigger pop-up spam on computers), worms (programs that allow hackers direct access to your computers), and more.

Antivirus programs, as the name suggests are designed primarily to detect and prevent the attachment and replication of virus like trojans (dangerous programs that can completely destroy computer files) and worms. Typically, antivirus programs are adept at detecting older and more established types of threats. Anti-malware programs, on the other hand, protect computers from the things that antivirus programs may not be able to catch. The majority of users only have an antivirus program installed on their computer. Without an anti-malware program, computers are effectively only halfway protected from the threats of the cyber world and some threats may slip into the system undetected.

Choosing an antivirus and anti-malware program is a relatively easy task. These programs come in paid and free models. Windows operating system comes with a basic antivirus software built into their Windows Defender—which activates and runs when no other antivirus program is installed. Other popular antivirus programs include McAfee and Norton Antivirus, two subscription-based programs; and AVG and Avast, two free-to-use programs.

Any of these antivirus programs are capable of protecting computers with only minimal differences between their features. One of the most commonly used anti-malware programs for most people is called Malwarebytes. It is another free-to-use piece of software. With these two types of programs running side-by-side, computers are vastly more protected than running one over the other or, in the worst case scenario, no protection. The free-to-use software are readily available for download from their respective websites, while subscription-based programs can either be downloaded or bought in physical disks from retailers such as Walmart. As the saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry.