Antivirus software has been around for many years. In fact, the first antivirus software dates back to 1971, when a virus known as the Creeper infected and spread to PDP-10 mainframe computers manufactured by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). To combat the Creeper, an American computer programmer developed the Reaper. It was a program designed to delete the virus, but was, in fact, a virus itself.
Fast forward to 2022 and you are probably asking yourself if you still need antivirus software? This article describes what antivirus software does and whether you still need it today despite a number of security enhancements that have been made to PCs and Macs.
What is the use of computer antivirus software?
Antivirus software is a specialized type of software that protects your machine from all varieties of malware, including viruses, trojans, worms, and adware. It gives home users a tool to level the playing field against cybercriminals who collectively release thousands of new viruses and types of malware each and every day.
Today, people interchange the terms “antivirus” with “anti-malware” and in essence, they are the same thing. Initially, the term “antivirus” was used because the initial infections were viruses, but as other malware surfaced — trojans, worms, adware, etc. — the term anti-malware was used as an all-encompassing term. Some anti-malware can use signature-based and behavior-based detection and some can even use artificial intelligence (AI). This is how the concept of “layers of protection” first surfaced.
How can malware harm your personal computer?
Computer malware is a type of software that can be self-spreading and, if successful, can wreak havoc on your computer and other computers in your home or business network. This is because some malware, such as a worm, is designed to reproduce and travel from computer to computer to cause as much damage as possible.
If the malware is not detected and successfully infects your PC or Mac, it can do extensive damage. While each virus may have different intentions, it can disrupt “business as usual” and adversely affect the use of your personal computer.
The following are a number of examples of the types of damage malware can inflict:
· Cause computer issues. Symptoms can include issues with programs or files, system crashes, or even restricted access to critical files and data.
· Exfiltrate data. In many cases, hackers look to steal sensitive information such as passwords to confidential sites, credit card details, Social Security numbers, medical records, and more. Cybercriminals will exfiltrate data to delete it, use it for financial gain or leverage the information to inflict harm on an individual or business.
· Install ransomware or trojans. Many cyberattacks are designed to trick a user into installing ransomware or trojans on their computer. If ransomware is successfully installed on your computer, you will be asked to pay a ransom to get your data back. If a trojan is installed, it can steal your personally identifiable information (PII), banking data, logins and passwords.
· Attempt to spread further. Worms are a specific type of malware designed to reproduce and spread to other devices over a network or through email. In fact, you can be liable if you are not protected and the infection spreads further and causes more damage.
· Slow the performance of the computer. Some malware is designed to reproduce so quickly that it can consume a substantial amount of computer memory and significantly impact your computer’s performance.
Is anti-malware software enough to protect my data and computer from different computer security threats?
The simple answer to this question is an unequivocal no! Antivirus software is not enough to protect you from all malware infections. Why, you ask?
As we discussed in the beginning of this article, antivirus or anti-malware software is designed to protect you from many types of malware but malware is typically a known infection. Anti-malware is not designed to detect and stop unknown malware infections or zero-day attacks. A zero-day attack happens when a cybercriminal successfully deploys malware that exploits a zero-day vulnerability — a never-seen-before security flaw or bug in a software application that the vendor is unaware of.
How can I detect and stop zero-day attacks?
To detect and stop zero-day attacks, you will need to use a cybersecurity solution that protects against cyberthreats and cyberattacks — either known or unknown. Cybersecurity uses various technologies, processes, and practices to safeguard your data, systems, and applications. Examples of some of the features that modern cybersecurity solutions provide include:
· Real-time protection to keep your computer safe from malicious activities, including never-seen-before threats
· On-demand antivirus scan to ensure threats aren’t lurking on your computer
· Web filtering to block malicious URLs trying to infect your system with malware, ransomware, and cryptojackers the moment you try to visit them
· Anti-ransomware and cryptojacking protection to safeguard your files, applications and systems by detecting and stopping ransomware and cryptojacking attacks
· Signature-based analysis to keep your defenses current by checking for updates to the threat database
· Behavior-based detection to detect threats based on suspicious or unusual user or application behavior
· Vulnerability assessment to identify security weaknesses in your operating system (OS) and applications and recommend updates to keep you safe.
Is cybersecurity software enough to keep my data secure and protected?
Unfortunately, the answer is no! While cybersecurity software provides most everything you need to detect and stop attacks, it does nothing to help you recover from an attack, should it succeed. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that an attack on your computer is inevitable, regardless of the cybersecurity software you use. Sooner or later, a cyberattack will succeed. This begs the next question: What happens to my data, applications, and systems if a cyberattack succeeds?
This is where cyber protection software comes into play. Cyber protection software, like Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office, provides all the security features of a cybersecurity solution plus the ability to create backups and to ready yourself in the event of any type of data loss ranging from a cyberattack, accidental data deletion or data loss due to human error — even a “disaster” such as a fire or flood.
What to look for in a cyber protection solution
Clearly, the most important factor to consider is how well — and how effective — the cybersecurity component of the software is at detecting known and unknown cyberthreats. To that end, consider solutions that provide the cybersecurity features described above plus the following capabilities:
· Full-image backups to protect and recover everything, including the OS, applications, and data, and also enable you either to restore everything or only the files and folders you need
· Real-time protection to keep your device and backup files safe from malicious activities
· All-in-one recovery drive to easily restore your systems to the same or new hardware
· Dual protection to automatically replicate your local backup in the cloud to better follow the 3-2-1 backup rule: maintain three copies of your data across two types of media, with one backup stored off-site
· Backup version control to enable you to keep as many versions of your backup as you want.
Let’s face it. Cyberthreats aren’t going anywhere any time soon. As they grow in number, they are also becoming much more sophisticated and their attacks harder to detect. This means we all need the best tools available at our disposal — including individuals using home computers. Cyber protection software can be a critically important tool to help us all stay a step ahead of the bad guys.
Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office — integrated computer security software with backup features
Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office (formerly Acronis True Image) offers everything you need to safeguard your systems and data, including your backed up data, from all of today’s threats — from disk failures to ransomware attacks. Thanks to its unique integration of backup and cybersecurity in one, it saves you time and reduces the cost, complexity, and risk caused by managing multiple solutions.
In addition to the features described above, Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office also offers some unique features:
· Anti-ransomware protection with automatic recovery of encrypted files. Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office uses machine intelligence (MI) to identify ransomware attacks in progress, instantly terminate them, and automatically restore any damaged files. Automatic restoration of the damaged files is only possible because Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office creates a full-disk image backup that enables you to restore either your entire computer or selected files and folders.
· Microsoft 365 backups. With Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office, you can create direct cloud-to-cloud backups of your Microsoft 365 account, including your Outlook.com mailbox and OneDrive.
· Videoconference protection (e.g., Zoom, Cisco WebEx, and Microsoft Teams). Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office ensures your privacy and stops cybercriminals or other unauthorized individuals from hacking into your videoconferences and stealing your data or intellectual property (IP).
· Protection of all devices. In addition to protecting your Windows PCs, Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office also protects Macs and allows you to create backups for Android, iPhone and iPad devices, as well as Windows tablets.