Antivirus Software: How It Works

In today’s era of modern computing, owning any type of computer or mobile device means having to make sure that the user’s information, data, and privacy are always safeguarded from the many criminals that roam the online world. One of the best defences that we have at the moment is antivirus, which is often dedicated, 3rd party software that provides protection from the various types of malware that have long plagued computer users.

Antivirus programs can come in a number of different shapes and forms, and while they generally tend to work the same, it’s ultimately up to the user to choose the kind of software that they want. For those wondering how antivirus software works, there are a number criteria that protection software needs to adhere to in order to remove the risk of compromise.

The Main Features of Antivirus Software

  • Background Scanning: The antivirus will constantly perform checks on files that are open from the back end, which is also known as access scanning. This provides real-time protection against any potential threats, and can actively remove malware that tries to infect the machine.
  • Full System Scans: These are more comprehensive scans that can sometimes take up to an hour or more to complete. The software will scan the entirety of the drives that have been assigned for scanning, rooting out any threats or embedded malware. Most antivirus programs will request that a full system scan is completed at least once a month to ensure that nothing has slipped past the real-time threat prevention safeguards.

The Malware

Malware comes in a number of different forms, and they’re always constantly being improved upon by the people that create them. But no matter how different they may be, most antivirus solutions will have a few key formats that they will keep an eye on. Once the software has located a potential threat, it will either be quarantined for later examination by the user, or outright terminated in the case of more dangerous types of malware.


Due to the constant changes that malware undergoes, antivirus companies will spend a large majority of their time ensuring that their programs are up to date on all the latest virus definitions. This ensures that they’re prepared for anything that hits the online world for the first time, and the user can only benefit from this by keeping their antivirus updated. Updates are usually done once a day, offering you a good chance to pick your online bingo numbers while you wait, but in some cases, such as if a new type of malware has found a vulnerability in real-time, updates may come at a faster rate.

Types of Antivirus Detections

  • Signature-Based Detections: The most common detection that checks all exe files and validates them against a list of known malware types.
  • Heuristic-Based Detections: Used in combination with the above, and allows antivirus software to find new variants of altered versions of malware.
  • Behavioural-Based Detections: Detects any malware types that performs suspicious activity
  • Sandbox Detections: Follows the actions of any programs in the environment to check the actions that they perform in real-time.