Antivirus Software Myths - You Need More Than That
If you’re working in an office environment, working from home, or are somewhere in between, it’s likely the subject of antivirus software has been brought up in your cybersecurity briefings.
In all likelihood, you’re probably not using a premium antivirus because you’re using your computer’s built-in firewall or Windows Defender. If you’re a Mac user, you’ve probably heard over and over about how Macs don’t even need antivirus software.
Or maybe even a close connection told you how they heard on social media how antiviruses are a scam! Unfortunately, none of it is true.
Viruses are real, hackers can target any device, and you can’t tell a virus from a legit file by simply looking at it. Let’s separate myth from reality to help you gain a better understanding of antivirus protection and why you need more than that.
What is a Virus?
The word “virus” is a blanket term to describe any program with malicious code designed to harm your computer. A virus is a computer program that replicates and attacks certain parts of your system.
The most common types include trojans, worms, adware, ransomware, and botnets, all of which are difficult to detect and protect against without antivirus software.
Pro tip: Look out for these signs to see if your computer is infected:
- Frequent system errors and crashes
- Computer drops in performance
- Your hardware is overheating
- Your computer fan is working overtime
- You have random pop-up windows
- Unknown applications start up when you turn on your device
What Antivirus Does
Antivirus software scans your files and checks its database of known malware to confirm an infection. It compares the files on your system with an updated list of the latest hacking viruses to eliminate any it finds.
It looks to find known parts of malicious code or familiar malware patterns used to create a new virus. Since cybercriminals are constantly evolving, it’s important to frequently update your antivirus to make sure the latest threats are kept at bay.
However, it isn’t the end-all-be-all solution to your problems.
Just because you have one installed doesn’t mean you’re fully protected. By the same token, an antivirus program isn’t necessarily bad if it can’t catch every virus because we’re dealing with an endless game of catch-up with cybercriminals.
Here are the most common myths surrounding antivirus programs.
Myth #1: All You Need is a Firewall
A firewall is a security tool that adds a layer of protection to your computer network. It prevents free access to your computer by controlling the data traffic to and from your network. It’s a great tool to have; without a firewall, anyone and anything can come and go.
However, your Windows firewall doesn’t protect you from any virus on the internet, except for certain worms and trojans that spread through networks. Its designated purpose isn’t to block malicious programs, which is the most common misconception that leads to countless compromised systems.
The bottom line?
Always keep an active firewall, but don’t rely on it for protection against malware.
Myth #2: Antivirus Slows Down Your PC
Some people think an antivirus will slow their system’s processing speed because it’s working in the background.
That’s not the case at all.
A good antivirus requires few resources and you won’t notice the extra processing load. Only a system-wide scan, most likely initiated by you, will have an actual impact on your PC’s performance.
This also doesn’t mean your computer will run faster. Unless the antivirus removes a virus that is already slowing down your PC, if your computer is clean, the software won’t affect its speed in any way.
Myth #3: Your Antivirus is Always Right
As it turns out, the virus scanner is often wrong.
Depending on your antivirus, you might get false positives when you download a harmless file, which often happens when you download a torrent file. If you do so, make sure you take other safety precautions as well.
On the other hand, the opposite can also happen. Because of the ever-evolving nature of cybercrime, sometimes a virus will slip through without as much as a bleep from the antivirus.
Don’t rely on your antivirus exclusively to protect your system.
Myth #4: You Don’t Need an Antivirus If You Use a VPN
A VPN doesn’t directly protect you from viruses. It hides your IP address and encrypts your online traffic, but it doesn’t block malware. Many VPN users focus on these security aspects exclusively and incorrectly conclude that they’re safe from trojans, worms, and spyware.
A VPN can protect you from some malware indirectly by blocking known malicious websites and ads, but it doesn’t prevent you from downloading infected files. Additionally, a VPN can’t scan your computer for a virus.
The best approach is to use a premium VPN in combination with antivirus included.
Myth #5: A Blue Screen of Death Means You Have a Virus
The infamous blue screen of death (or BSOD) error has been caused by a couple of viruses, but rarely. In most cases, the malware works silently in the background and you might occasionally get a non-fatal error.
BSOD is often caused by driver problems, hardware failure, or corrupt system files. It’s something you should take into consideration before you start looking for a virus. Disable your computer’s automatic reboot to read the error code and then start looking for the culprit.
In all likelihood, it’s not a virus.
Myth #6: Windows Defender is All You Need
While Windows Defender has improved a lot over the years, offering substantial protection against malware, it simply isn’t enough. More often than not, free antivirus software has lots of holes, especially when it comes to identifying and purging certain viruses.
The reality is Microsoft doesn’t update its virus database as often as premium antivirus developers. When it comes to security, you shouldn’t rely on freeware. A premium antivirus receives frequent updates, has far more advanced features, and often comes packaged with other cybersecurity solutions.
Myth #7: You Are Safe From Cybercriminals
If you think you’ll never be a target just because you aren’t famous or work for a big corporation, think again. If you’re on the internet, you’re always at risk of falling victim to a hacker.
Hackers spread viruses to search for vulnerable networks and computers. Once the malware finds its targets, it installs backdoors for the hacker to use to get access to your data.
For the most security, you need a firewall, antivirus, VPN, and other cybersecurity tools to protect your devices.
Myth #8: You’ll Know If You Have a Virus
Just because your computer runs normally doesn’t mean it’s clean.
It’s likely you think that you’ll “see” when you have a virus on your computer. That’s true in some cases, like adware that generates pop-up ads all over your desktop, but the majority of malware works behind the scenes.
Most viruses show small signs of infection, like slowing down your PC’s performance or limiting your connection speed.
What’s the solution? A powerful antivirus that actively blocks malware and runs frequent system scans.
Myth #9: You Don’t Need an Antivirus If You Frequent ‘Safe’ Websites
One of the largest myths about viruses is that they only lurk on sketchy websites for porn, gambling, and torrenting. Unfortunately, no website is entirely safe from malware.
Your computer can get infected even from a seemingly harmless website about cats.
You never know what’s really behind the next click or that funny cat video you’re about to download and share with your friends. As mentioned earlier, you need powerful antivirus protection, preferably with a VPN as well, for the safest way to browse online.
Myth #10: Antivirus is a Scam
A lot of people believe that computer viruses don’t exist or that they’re made by antivirus developers to sell their software. None of that is true.
Antivirus software works. A virus is an application like any other, programmed to do whatever its creator wants.
Creating a virus isn’t rocket science; anyone with a bit of programming knowledge can write malicious code in just a few hours, and it’s only gotten easier as of late with AI tools spearheading code generation.
Protect your computer with antivirus software and stop computer viruses from spreading to everyone you know.
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