What To Look For When Choosing Antivirus Software

With up to 100 new malware threats being discovered per day, antivirus software is, for many home computer users, the primary method for protecting their computer from threats.

Computers nowadays usually come pre-loaded with some kind of antivirus software, often a trial version. Unfortunately, many users fail to properly configure their antivirus or keep it updated, and may let the antivirus software expire without even noticing that their computer is no longer protected against current malware threats.

With such a crowded marketplace, how can you know which solution is the best? Here's a list of some of the features to look out for:

Real-time Scanner
This monitors network traffic as it flows through the computer to intercept any malware as it enters your system.

On-access Scanner
The on-access scanner automatically scans files as they are opened or accessed to detect any malware.

On-Demand Scanner
This scanner provides the ability to perform a custom "one off " scan of a file, folder or drive initiated by the user.

Heuristic Scanner
Heuristic scanning uses what is known about existing malware and what it has learned from past experience to identify new threats even before the antivirus vendor creates an update to detect it.

Compressed File Scanner
Some malware may come inside a compressed file such as a ZIP file, or may even be embedded in a compressed file within a compressed file. Most antivirus programs can scan within a compressed file. The better programs may be able to scan many levels deep to detect malware even if it is buried within multiple compressed files.

Scheduled Scans
Most antivirus software provides some mechanism for setting a schedule for automatically performing a scan.

Script Blocking
Scripting languages are frequently used to execute malicious code from web sites. Some antivirus programs have the ability to monitor Javascript, ActiveX and other script files to detect and block malicious activity.

POP3 Email Scanning
The ability of the antivirus software to monitor incoming and/or outgoing POP3 email traffic and the associated file attachments to detect and alert about virus or other malware threats.

Webmail Protection
The better antivirus programs can monitor web-based email traffic such as Hotmail or Gmail to detect and block malware in file attachments.

Automatic Virus Updates
One of the biggest problems users face with antivirus software is simply keeping it updated. Most antivirus software can be configured to automatically connect with the vendor site and download new updates and patched on a regular basis.

Automatic Program Updates
The scanning engine and software itself will usually be updated to add functionality and to detect newer threats. Most antivirus suites can be configured to automatically check for new updates and download and install them if they are available.