Understanding Antivirus Software

Before I explain what antivirus software is, it’s worth reviewing the nature of software in general. Understanding software doesn’t mean you have to write computer programs or wear a hat with a propeller on top. The fact is that the word software is at the heart of viruses and the defenses against them. Knowing some basics about software will help you to understand viruses and how to stop them in their tracks.

These days, the term software is roughly synonymous with computer program. A program used to be a set of instructions individually written for every task a computer did. Software began as a package of programs designed to handle a range of specific tasks consistently. These days it’s a packaged product that tells the computer what to do — consistently. There’s the rub: A computer is, after all, a machine that’s no smarter than its creators; software is still a set of instructions that makes the computer do everything. If a hacker can figure out how it does that, then the computer is ripe for a sneaky takeover.

Yep, viruses are software: Nasty, illicit software. As such, they can only be effectively fought with (you guessed it). . . .

Antivirus software is specifically designed to rid your computer of viruses and to keep them at bay, usually by three methods:

  •  By identifying viruses and arresting them when they try to invade
  • By identifying viruses already present in the computer
  • By removing viruses and making simple repairs to the computer