How Does an Antivirus Work?

by Carson

Antivirus software, also known as antimalware, is a must to keep your computer secure. In fact, it’s only a matter of time before you will eventually find it beneficial. Some may think that skimming through files carefully or cautiously browsing things online is enough, but this is not true because malware often hides their identities beyond human detection. Today, we’ll explore how an antivirus detects and deals with threats in this article.

How Does an Antivirus Recognize Malware?

To successfully defend your gadget from malware, detecting evasive malware is crucial. Therefore, we are going to explain the ways that antivirus software recognizes malware.

One of the types of antivirus software is associated with a database of known malware signatures. That way, if the program detects a pattern in the blocklist, the software will automatically report a threat. However, the accuracy of an antimalware using this technique is usually unacceptably low since malware developers modify malware regularly and make sure that they are not in any database of malicious programs.

Other, more advanced programs don’t rely on specific patterns in files alone. Instead, they may look at a range of patterns. Such analysis is called heuristic-based detection and can be used to determine close variants of pieces of malware known to the database. Also, it might use behavior-based detection. In that case, it might execute the file in a sandbox environment and see if it will harm the isolated system by recording the program’s actions. This all takes place without affecting the host system as it is often extremely challenging, if not impossible, for a program to escape a sandbox once it’s in there.

How Will the Antivirus Deal with Suspicious Files?

Obviously, the antimalware will have to deal with files after confirming that they are malicious or contaminated. As a result, we will explain two ways that they will do so.

Firstly, the software might delete the file entirely. This is the cleanest way of dealing with malware as the data will not be on your hard drive anymore, but it might not always be the best option because some alleged threats might be false positives. Therefore, there is an option to quarantine files. It puts the files in a protected place where it is prevented from executing. That way, if you’re pretty confident that the file tagged as malicious is neither malware nor an infected file, you can put it out of quarantine. Do this with caution, though, and conduct a full system backup of the clean files before you do this.

Best Practices of Using an Antivirus

However, antivirus software also has shortcomings. They can never detect all malware, and their results may also contain false positives that are entirely legitimate. Therefore, we should not wholly rely on antimalware software. Instead, we should also be wary of the websites you visit, avoid falling victim to social engineering, and observe symptoms of a malware infection. Moreover, antivirus software might not be able to clean all malware because malware often escapes being cleaned. Therefore, it is better, if possible, to erase the drive and reinstall the operating system after getting malware. For more cybersecurity tips, please see here.

If your antivirus can conduct background scans, it is an excellent thing as it can automatically detect threats without the need for human intervention. However, if it does not scan files in the background, scans should be conducted regularly to cope with malware as soon as possible after it has been installed to mitigate damage. Though many users will choose only to scan important locations like your Downloads and Documents folders, it’s important to run full scans that scrutinize all files, including those on external drives, on your device.


Attackers always try to hide the malware they install on victims’ computers for them to become as undetectable as it can be so that more harm can be done. Therefore, antivirus software, which often uses the methods described above accompanied by machine learning, can be used to detect the most concealed malware. If you want to learn even more about antivirus programs, please visit the webpages in the references below. Also, make sure that it has various good reviews on multiple aspects from multiple websites before determining whether an antivirus is good and installing it!

References and Credits

  1. Vigderman, A., Turner, G. (2021, November 29). How Does Antivirus Software Work? Retrieved March 15, 2022, from
  2. Hoffman, C. (2016, September 26). How Antivirus Software Works. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from
  3. (n.d.). How Antivirus Software Works? Retrieved March 15, 2022, from
  4. Eric C. (n.d.). How Does Antivirus Quarantine Work? Retrieved March 15, 2022, from
  5. Landesman, M. (2021, March 13). Quarantine, Delete, or Clean: What Should You Do About a Virus?. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from
  6. (n.d.). Sandbox. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from

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