An antivirus is software which functions to protect the user’s computer from viruses, trojans, and other types of malware. Antivirus software may also serve as protection from different kinds of spyware and adware.
In the past, viruses were often found in infected floppy disks. Antivirus software did not require frequent updates, as the management of viruses was quite simple to handle.
However, with the exponential growth of the Internet, the spread of viruses has also become more rampant and difficult to contain. Viruses could be embedded in emails, which could then be released just by opening the message. As such, antivirus programs also had to be improved and developed to enable faster detection of a much greater variety of viruses.
Antivirus programs function in myriad ways. Often, they can detect certain patterns in .exe files which are recognized as harmful. This is only effective for known viruses, though. There are other methods used for new viruses. For example, a new virus may be detected if the pattern it contains appears to be a variation of a previously-known malicious code.
For many computer users, though, it seems that depending on one antivirus program may not be enough. After a period of time, the ability of a program to detect malware drops substantially. Also, since new viruses arise every so often, it is possible that certain codes are not immediately or effectively detected. It is also possible that users who do not understand certain prompts and alerts make wrong calls and thus unwittingly cause further compromise to security.