A-Z of Computing – A is for Antivirus

Welcome to my new series on the essentials of computing, one letter at a time. Let’s start at the beginning – A is for Antivirus.

To me, antivirus is as essential as having seatbelts in a car. You wouldn’t think of taking your children out for a drive without making sure their seatbelts are on – just in case the worst happens – well the internet is full of things that can make the worst happen! What is the worst, you may ask? Viruses are typically designed to destroy, or steal data – it
could be permanently deleted, given to third parties, and/or your PC made unusable. They are also designed to spread themselves, via files or e-mail, potentially infecting your contacts.

There are three main ways your PC could contract a virus or malware – from the internet, via an e-mail, or via shared media (USB stick, CD, memory card, or from another PC on your home or business network). I’ll use the term virus in this article, but this covers a number of nasty things such as trojans, worms, keyloggers and other malware.

GMT Solutions: A is for Anti-virusGood antivirus software will check these three sources by scanning downloaded files, incoming e-mails, and any media you plug into your PC, plus regularly scanning your computer for infected files. New viruses are created every day, which is why your antivirus updates itself so often, with new virus definitions from its parent company.

It used to be the case that if you had an Apple Mac, Linux system, or anything other than a Windows PC, you were relatively safe from viruses as they just weren’t written for these systems. Unfortunately they are all now susceptible – and even tablets and mobile phones can contract viruses.

So what should you look for in a good antivirus? Detection rates – it’s no good if it misses a virus! Scanning options – not just your hard disk files, but disk boot sectors, e-mails, and also the ability to recover files once infected. Usability – it might be great software but it’s no good if it’s hard to set up or slows your PC down. Norton was once the market leader in antivirus, but now has a reputation among IT pros for monopolising your PC’s resources and slowing your system down.

Online reviews are often a good place to start your search, as is asking your local, friendly IT support! The website av-test.org offers independent industry reviews of software from home and business perspectives, and tests them on a variety of systems. We are currently recommending BitDefender – it’s reasonably priced but effective, and doesn’t slow down performance.

If you suspect you have a virus, would like a free chat about antivirus software, or have queries on
anything else IT related, please contact us on [email protected].