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What does anti-virus software do?

When you're sitting there, wondering just what does anti-virus software do, bear in mind that the internet is in many ways similar to the old Wild West.

Part of it is tamed, but there are many parts of it that are hostile, unruly, aggressive and basically, anarchic. The rule of law does not always exist in cyber space. And lurking out there in the undergrowth are a large number of people intent on illegally parting you and your money.

And it's not a question of the outlaws, or ruffians, riding into town and holding up the bank; cyber criminals are sophisticated and ruthless. Based in any part of the world, but mostly where people don't look too closely, they sit at computers on a 24/7 basis and plot how to steal money, personal identities and bank details.

And the modern day sheriff is not Wyatt Earp, or Clint Eastwood, but your anti-virus software.

It has two simple aims. Once loaded, to see if your computer has already been infected by viruses. Secondly, once satisfied your computer is clean, it sits there, running in the background, offering you a level of protection while you are emailing and surfing the net.

And as your anti-virus software runs in the background, it regularly updates itself via new data files.

Now, just a quick word on your constantly running internet security programme. They are memory hungry, but don't succumb to the temptation and turn them off, so as to enhance computer performance. That would be like leaving your property doors always unlocked, day and night. It would almost be inevitable that you would come under attack sooner, or later. It would be far better, if possible, to increase your computer's memory, which nowadays is quite cheap to buy.

Okay, so your anti-virus software receives a new data file which basically contains a new set of virus definitions. Viruses are created on a daily basis, so keeping up with their introduction is one of the biggest headaches for your anti-virus software.

And the great thing is, most of the modern anti-virus software is an automatic process. You might get a pop-up asking if you wish to update your anti-virus software, but these days it's a seamless service, not requiring any action from the user.

So, when it comes to choosing your anti-virus software, whether you choose a pre-loaded version, or go out and buy a CD, have a good look to see what it can do. Basically, you want a version that can cover you for all eventualities, and one that regularly updates itself and it therefore powerful enough to protect you from all the latest nasties.

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