Updated: Apr 29
Imagine if you had hundreds of flies entering your house every day through a tiny hole in your door screen, and each day more would fly in causing the hole to grow bigger and bigger. Pretty soon your entire house would be buzzing with flies. They would be landing on all your food and be a complete nuisance. Then one day a hornet gets in, and you are deathly allergic to these stings…but you can’t find it because all the flies are making so much ruckus you can’t see or hear the hornet until - Bam! He stings you.
What a crazy scenario, right? That would never realistically happen. Well unless, of course, the house is your computer, and the flies are the itty little viruses flying around your computer until one day the big one takes your computer down completely. The hole in this proverbial screen is the lack of anti-virus protection for our devices. It can seem inconsequential at first. You notice some minor issues, but nothing that is detrimental. However, without the proper protection, the wrong kind of virus can make its way into your computer. And before you know it, your whole system is compromised.
So what is anti-virus?
Anti-virus software is designed to detect and destroy any viruses you may accidentally contract onto your computer.
Contracting an internet virus can happen very easily. It can happen from just visiting an unverified website online or opening an email from someone you don’t directly know and trust, and then clicking a link. Once a virus is in, you may not immediately recognize its presence, but slowly over time it begins to corrupt your entire system, leaving your computer vulnerable to completely crashing and your files may even be completely lost.
An antivirus software works by scanning incoming files or code that's being passed through your network traffic. Companies who build this software compile an extensive database of already known viruses and malware and teach the software how to detect, flag, and remove them.
When files, programs, and applications are flowing in and out of your computer, the antivirus compares them to its database to find matches. Matches that are similar or identical to the database are isolated, scanned, and removed. Support, T. (2020, September 1). How Does Antivirus Work? Soscanhelp. https://www.soscanhelp.com/blog/how-does-antivirus-work
A system without an anti-virus is like the hole in your window screen letting flies in. Eventually you will attract enough flies to begin to affect your environment and inevitably you will attract a bigger, more detrimental virus into your computer. Anti-virus software is how you prevent the hole in the first place. It keeps the viruses out and eliminates anything that gets inside.
What harm can a virus do to my computer?
Some of the ways a virus can affect your computer is to slow it down, or affect its ability to connect to the internet, or even make it difficult to navigate around your computer entirely. You might find your computer crashing more often without an explanation. Viruses can delete and corrupt files causing them to be lost entirely. It can also corrupt the hard drive making the computer un-salvageable.
There are also higher risks that can come from a virus taking over your computer. Oftentimes hackers will use viruses to manipulate you and your system for their own personal gain.
A phone call alerted me to an issue I have never heard of before. This person was a new client and had received a phone call. On that call, my client was alerted that he had a virus on his computer. “How do you know this?” asked my client. The response he heard was, “I am from Microsoft. We monitor these things, and we have detected that you have a virus.” HOWEVER, this person was actually a hacker, posing as a Microsoft employee.
My client was instructed to download a file from a website that would allow him (the hacker) to have remote access to my client’s computer. Once the hacker had access to my client’s computer, he proceeded to show my client all sorts of things that he identified as a virus. My client really did not know what he was looking at. The hacker indicated that to remove the virus, my client would need to pay $250.
However, he would have to place the money on Google Play gift cards, and then call the “Microsoft employee” (hacker) back to give him the gift card numbers in-order-for the bill to be paid.
My client was spooked while he was at the grocery store, and fortunately the cashier asked him why he was buying the cards. My client shared what had happened, and the cashier told my client that this was most certainly a scam.
While still at the store, my client’s bank contacted him stating there was an unusual transaction on his account. $2,000 had been transferred from my client’s home line-of-credit to his personal bank account via his online banking. Also, there was an attempt to have that same amount sent to an external account that was not owned by my client.
Upon scanning of the computer, we found several keyloggers (a software program that captures everything you type) and malware that tracked my client’s actions on the computer. All of which were installed when my client gave the hacker access to his computer. –Nate Sheen owner of DataCom Technologies.
This is just one of the many stories we hear in the field on a regular basis. Fortunately, this is easily prevented by good anti-virus software and making sure you are using two-factor authentication (2FA) on all of your devices.
How does anti-virus work?
Anti-virus software works by scanning directories and files for malicious patterns that would allow it to find the presence of malware. It will then remove any malicious software. Depending on the software you use, it may do this in the background, or it may notify you first before removing it. Anti-virus software will also encourage you to schedule scans on a weekly basis to ensure that your computer is staying safe.
There are several different ways that these programs can detect viruses and malware.
Originally, antivirus software depended on signature-based detection to flag malicious software. Antivirus programs depend on stored virus signatures -- unique strings of data that are characteristic of known malware. The antivirus software uses these signatures to identify when it encounters viruses that have already been identified and analyzed by security experts.
Signature-based malware cannot detect new malware, including variants of existing malware. Signature-based detection can only detect new viruses when the definition file is updated with information about the new virus. With the number of new malware signatures increasing at around 10 million per year as long ago as 2011, modern signature databases may contain hundreds of millions, or even billions, of entries, making antivirus software based solely on signatures impractical. However, signature-based detection does not usually produce false positive matches.
Heuristic-based detection uses an algorithm to compare the signatures of known viruses against potential threats. With heuristic-based detection, antivirus software can detect viruses that haven't been discovered yet, as well as already existing viruses that have been disguised or modified and released as new viruses. However, this method can also generate false-positive matches when antivirus software detects a program behaving similarly to a malicious program and incorrectly identifies it as a virus.
Antivirus software may also use behavior-based detection to analyze an object's behavior or potential behavior for suspicious activities and infers malicious intent based on those observations. For example, code that attempts to perform unauthorized or abnormal actions would indicate the object is malicious, or at least suspicious. Some examples of behaviors that potentially signal danger include modifying or deleting large numbers of files, monitoring keystrokes, changing settings of other programs and remotely connecting to computers. Rosencrance, L. (2017, August 28). antivirus software (antivirus program). SearchSecurity. https://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/definition/antivirus-software
Some benefits to having a sturdy, anti-virus software on your computer:
Blocking ads: Viruses can enter computer systems of its victims through pop-up advertisements. A large portion of viruses use pop-up ads and websites to make their way into your computer. Oftentimes it’s a complete accident. You visit a website, and when you click to move your screen up, an add pops up in that same moment, and you click that instead. Pop-up ads and spam websites are one of the most frequent ways by which viruses can infect your computer.
Faster computer speed: That’s right. Having anti-virus software can help keep your computer running faster. Why? Well, when you’re actively keeping all of the junk cleaned out of your computer and folders, you have more room for your computer to work and get you to that deadline faster.
Protection from viruses carried over from your friend’s computer: Though it might seem hard to believe, computers can actually catch viruses from each other… Well, sort of. If your friend lends you a USB device that was connected to his computer and his computer has a virus, it’s very possible that the virus has already corrupted his files and is soon to find its way to yours. However, with that handy dandy anti-virus software, it will scan the device and remove any potentially dangerous viruses.
Firewall protection: A firewall monitors incoming and outgoing content from your computer network. When connected with anti-virus, firewall protection double checks every file or data that you send from your computer through the internet. This also includes any files or viruses you may receive through files or emails. This can also help protect you from phishing scams, too.
Preventing access to sketchy websites: Anti-virus software can prevent access to unauthorized websites that could expose your computer system to cyber threats such as spyware, hackers, and ransomware. These threats can potentially risk your data and files. Anti-virus software limits your web access to restrict your activities on unauthorized networks. This is done to make sure that you only access the websites that are safe and harmless for your computer system.
Threat monitoring: Threat monitoring will watch for security threats by continually analyzing and evaluating data. Once the suspicious activity is identified, it is reported to the appropriate security authorities so the threat can be dissolved. Threat monitoring discovers vulnerabilities that may have not been known before. This is how a virus is identified. The information identified is shared with multiple teams and procedures are created based on this information, which often becomes automated in anti-virus software.
How much does it cost?
Well just like anything else, you get what you pay for. Cost for an anti-virus software can range anywhere from $30-$60, annually. Finding the right one for you and your needs is the best approach for finding good anti-virus software. A cost is often hard to assign in just one answer. Depending on what you need to protect, it will determine your price. Fortunately, DataCom Technologies has created simple packages that give you everything you need based on your level of need.
DataCom Technology’s Uptime:
One of the best ways to protect yourself and get the most coverage for your devices is through our Uptime package. We offer a variety of protection in the Uptime package such as:
quarterly or monthly maintenance,
anti-virus software (includes signature, Heuristic, and behavior-based scanning)
real time monitoring,
threat monitoring (provides in-house threat monitoring and partners with an external team for additional support),
help desk support,
remote login support,
live chat support,
and a discounted hourly rate on any other project around your home or office. You can check out prices and packages here.
At the end of the day, we all want to be safer on the internet. Around every corner it seems like there is another virus or hacker just lying in wait to steal from us. Unfortunately, this is true. But thankfully, there are plenty of ways for us to be prepared and protected. Contact DataCom Technologies if you would like us to help you determine which anti-virus software is the best fit for you. Click here to contact us through our website, or call us at 330-680-6002. Another good option to help you learn more about protecting your virtual information, is to read Nate Sheen’s book – The Cyber Security Guide. Click here to get your own copy from Amazon.