When it comes to safety and computers, to most people, only one thing comes to mind - anti-virus. From Norton to McAfee to Window’s built in “Defender”, anti-viruses have become essential in any computer setup. But if I never visit sketchy sites or download strange programs, why do I still need an antivirus? While it is true that digital common sense is your best weapon against malware infections, some malware can be cleverly placed, disguised in the background of legit websites. Other forms of malware come in the form of links in e-mails and messages. This article will take you through the basics of malware defence.

Put an Automatic Identification Program In Place

Malware hides in plain sight, usually in the form of a document, website, program, etc. Because of this, you won’t be able to know if you’ve hit the jackpot until you open whatever the malware is hiding in. By the time you do, it’s already too late. The malware would’ve infected the system. Fortunately, this is something anti-viruses excel at. Instead of playing virtual Russian roulette, just use an anti-virus. Anti-virus programs comb through every application you download or open, scanning for any harmful code. If the file in question passes, the file is opened for the user. On the other hand, if the file does not pass the check, the user is informed of the risk and the application is kept from opening. This process is known as “On-Access Scanning”. An anti-virus program checks a file by referencing a list of harmful codes that have been found in the past. If none of these pop-up in the file, the antivirus intervenes. This feature is found in every reputable anti-virus and is vital. With this feature, you’re protected from most malware. Notice how I said most. See, new malware is created daily, and these new forms can slip under the radar. This is because anti-viruses must be updated to recognize new malware, and these companies can only react so fast. This brings me into the second reason.

Use Heuristics

Heuristics, is simply a shortcut that anti-viruses take to identify potential new dangers. An anti-virus program will check the actions of a file or program that has been opened. If the anti-virus notices strange behavior such as replication or spreading, the anti-virus notifies the user and stops whatever is causing it. This way, anti-viruses can identify new forms of malware without letting users become victims. This form of protection does have one flaw in the form of “false positives”. Sometimes when you open an application, your anti-virus may flag it as a potential risk to your computer, even though you know it isn’t. Is this annoying? Yes, but it’s always better to be safe and sorry.

Update your systems

Updating your system protects your own computer from security risks, but not other users who use outdated systems. For example, let’s say you share an apartment with your friend. Both of you have computers set up, but only you keep your system up to date. Your friend’s system is more at risk. One day, he decides to share a file to your system. What he didn’t realize was that file was infected with an old form of malware that could have been prevented with a security update. An anti-virus can protect you from these situations. Many people do not update their systems, so malware has an easier time traversing through files or networks. An anti-virus will easily notice these intrusions.There are many reasons to why an anti-virus is needed, but you only need one: security. Today, keeping your virtual playground secure is as important as keeping your home secure. With Windows even installing an anti-virus system for you, there is no reason to not use one.