What is antivirus software, and do I need it?


Having more than Antivirus protection is essential. Learn why.

Antivirus software helps protect your computer against malware and attacks from cybercriminals. Antivirus software looks at data — web pages, files, software, applications — all traveling over the network to your devices. It searches for known cyberthreats and monitors the behavior of all programs, flagging suspicious behavior or malicious code. It seeks to block or remove malware as quickly as possible.

Antivirus protection is a must, given the array of constantly-emerging cyberthreats. If you don’t have protective software installed, you could be at risk of picking up a virus or being targeted by other malicious software that can remain undetected, wreaking havoc on your computer or mobile devices leading to data loss or financial

If you already have antivirus software, you may believe you’re all set. But it might not be that simple. With new and savvier cyberthreats and our use of multiple devices, it’s important to stay current with the latest in device security.

If there’s any chink in your cybersecurity defenses, cybercriminals could potentially try to find a way in. Ensuring your antivirus software is up and running, and up-to-date, is a good place to start. However, cybercriminals are constantly tweaking their methods, so it’s a good idea to go further with multiple layers of protection against existing and emerging cyberthreats in today’s connected world ‒ in one single solution.

What is antivirus software designed to do?

What exactly is antivirus software designed to do? We’re talking about a program or umbrella of programs whose purpose is to scan for and help eradicate computer viruses and other malicious software, also known as malware. Antivirus software is a vital component of your overall online and computer security strategy in its protection that helps safeguard against data and security breaches along with other cyberthreats.

When looked at simply, a computer virus is similar to a flu virus. It’s designed to go from one infected computer or device to the next, copying itself, and spreading malicious codes and programs that can damage and infiltrate your operating systems. Viruses are designed to give cybercriminals access to their victims’ devices.

These viruses, spyware, and other malicious software are known as malware, and can be surreptitiously installed on your computer or device. Malware can do everything from crashing your device to monitoring or controlling your online activity.This control may enable cybercriminals to send spam or phishing emails and steal your private information, which could eventually lead to personal information exposure.

Antivirus software provides protection against these types of cyberthreats by performing key tasks:

  • Pinpointing specific files for the detection of malicious software
  • Scheduling automatic scans 
  • Scanning either one file or your entire computer at your discretion
  • Deleting malicious codes and software
  • Confirming the safety of your computer and other devices

What does antivirus software help protect you from?

The beauty of malware for cybercriminals is its ability to gain access to or damage a computer without our knowledge. It’s important to be aware of the many different types of malicious codes, or “malware,” against which antivirus software is designed to protect:

  • Spyware: stealing personal information
  • Ransomware: extorting money
  • Viruses
  • Worms: spreading copies between computers 
  • Trojans: promising one thing but delivering another 
  • Adware: advertising
  • Spam: spreading unwanted email

Do I need antivirus protection for a Mac®?

Do Mac have viruses? While Mac and other Apple® devices may not be as frequently targeted as Windows™ computers, it’s still a good idea to get additional antivirus protection to be ready for what may come in the future. At the moment, if you’re careful about what you open, don’t click on unknown links or attachments, and are careful in your online activity, you may be safe. But is it an unknown risk you’re willing to take? “Safe for now” may transition to “no longer safe.”

Free antivirus software: Does it work?

Another common question is whether free antivirus software protects us. But is anything ever really free? “Free” antivirus usually supports and makes money with advertising and tracking, and sometimes by installing junkware.

Free downloads also can hide malware. If you go this route, only download software from sites that you absolutely trust. You also must ensure that your security setting is set high enough to detect malicious codes.

Another thing to keep in mind when considering whether to rely on free antivirus protection? Mobile security, and data security support options. These important security features often are lacking with free software.


Is Antivirus all I need for online protection?

Cyberthreats have evolved since the days of just having antivirus. It’s not just viruses infecting your PC anymore, but ever-changing cyberthreats that can put your online privacy as well as your private and financial information that you keep on your smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC at risk. You not only need advanced protection for your devices against viruses, spyware, ransomware, phishing but also other cyberthreats.

Did you know that public Wi-Fi could be unsecure? This could be another point of access for cybercriminals to access your data. If your connecting to public Wi-Fi, you should be using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt the information you send and receive.

How secure are your passwords? Passwords written on a sticky note or the same password used for every account may make your personal information vulnerable if they get into the wrong hands. Using a password manager provides the tools you need to generate, store, and manage your password, credit card information and other credentials online – more securely in your very own encrypted, cloud-based vault.

When was the last time you backed-up the information on your devices? Computers, tablets, and mobile devices store many cherished and important documents from family photos to resumes to financial documents. Regularly backing up your data provides a way to store more securely important files and documents as a preventive measure against data loss due to hard drive failures, stolen devices and even ransomware.

Ensuring you have to right tools to help protect your data in today’s evolving digital landscape is critical That’s why Norton is evolving, too.


Introducing Norton™ 360. Multiple layers of protection against existing and emerging cyberthreats in today’s connected world ‒ in one single solution.

Get advanced protection for your devices against viruses, phishing and other cyberthreats. Plus, Secure VPN to help secure your data when connecting to Wi-Fi with the reassurance of bank grade encryption. Password Manager provides the tools you need to generate and store your passwords and logins. Cloud Backup for your PC helps securely store important files and documents as a preventative measure against the loss of your data due to ransomware or hard drive failures. SafeCam for PC, to alert and help you block unauthorised access to your webcam.

Norton 360. Protection for your devices, online privacy and more. All in an easy to use solution.

Sign up for Norton 360 today

Considering all of the risks mentioned above, having the right protection that suits your needs is important. It can mean the theoretical difference between browsing online more safely — with your financial and personal information inside your lockbox at home, going shopping with your personal and financial information available for the taking.

Norton 360 features Norton top-of-the-line defenses and advanced detection against these cyberthreats, helps safeguard your personal information and online transactions, and is designed to ensure emails and links come from trusted sources.

It's smart to remember that antivirus software alone isn’t enough to protect against cyberthreats. Cybersecurity also means protecting not only your devices, but also your online privacy. Don’t leave your cybersecurity up to chance!

Find out more on how Norton 360 can help protect your devices and online privacy.

Norton logo
  • Norton
Norton empowers people and families around the world to feel safer in their digital lives

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


    Want more?

    Follow us for all the latest news, tips and updates.