The companies that make anti-virus programs have bold statements trumpeting the accomplishments of their software in the battle against computer viruses and spyware. They speak of up-to-date definitions and thorough scanning of the computer, and they are correct in that the anti-virus programs of today are leaps and bounds ahead of what was available just a couple years ago. A word of warning though, don’t take a deep breath and rest easy because you have an anti-virus program running on your computer.
The general way that almost every anti-virus program works is that it must be updated regularly to download the definitions of the newest viruses and spyware. The problem in the system lies in that once a user has gotten the notice or reminded himself to update his anti-virus program, the virus writers have moved on towards, and in some cases already have been, releasing newer versions of their viruses that are not in the updated definitions log yet. This problem is compounded by
the fact that many anti-virus software companies do not have the resources to release new patches and fixes as quickly as they are needed by their users, which results in users often already being infected by the time the new update is available.
Even when their computer has become infected, many users feel safe in that they have an anti-virus program that can now do a scan of their system and isolate and delete a virus related program it finds, restoring their computer to its pre-infection glory. The sad fact is that many times this is not the case. Many viruses today mutate themselves so completely once they have infected a computer that it is difficult for the bulk of anti-virus programs to remove them. Often times, the anti-virus software is unable to remove the hidden or mutated virus files without further damaging the computer itself.
Don’t think of this information as insinuating that anti-virus programs are ineffective in the battle against computer viruses and spyware. Be aware of the problems and limitations that anti-virus software has in protecting your computer. As of right now, the best defense against computer viruses may be the knowledge that there is no perfect defense. Attention to computer performance (both speed and error messages) will always rank high on the list of things one can do to protect their computer.