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What Is The Difference Between Antivirus and Anti-Malware Software?

These two terms are frequently confused, and used interchangeably, however there are differences between them. Knowing and understanding the differences between viruses and malware is important, as you may find you buy and install one product thinking you are now entirely protected, when in reality you still have computer and IT security holes left open!

So, let’s start with the difference between what is a virus and what is malware.

A virus is a piece of computer code which is self-replicating, rather like a real virus. By making uncounted copies of itself, the virus takes over your computer system, and can cause extensive damage, including damaging the hardware and especially destroying or corrupting your data stored on it.

Malware is a generic term for a plethora of malicious software – malware is derived from “mal” as in malicious, and “ware” from software. Examples of malware include spyware, Trojans, adware, ransomware, and within this umbrella definition we also place viruses too.

What Is The Difference Between Antivirus and Anti-Malware Software

The essential difference is that viruses are just one form of malware, but not all malware are viruses.

So, the impact of this is that anti-virus, or AV, will help protect you against computer viruses, however there are a whole range of other malicious bad guys who can and will damage your computer and data.

However, the complication does not stop here – viruses are referred to as “legacy threats” – this means they have been around for a long time, and generally, they have not been altered very much. Cyber crooks do not use them anywhere near as much as they used to, as protection and user behavior has become savvier, so have the nefarious methods used by criminals to gain access to computers and the information they contain.

As malicious threats have evolved past the virus stage, so too have the methods created by cyber security providers to combat them. This explains why many security companies now provide more than just anti-virus software. It is not unusual to find a cyber security company offering protection against multiple malware forms, such as keyloggers, concealment software (for example rootkits), worms and all of the aforementioned malware examples we cited above.

So, when you next come to look at upgrading your computer and IT network security, you should be looking beyond just antivirus. You will want a solution which will provide protection against a whole host of malicious threats, and not just the older established ones. As a rule of thumb, you will use antivirus against the older threats (viruses, Trojans, worms) and anti-malware against newer threats (polymorphic malware and zero-day malware exploits).

Antivirus software tackles older threats, and which while dangerous, are typically well known and dealing with them is understood. Newer threats which are tackled by anti-malware solutions, are much more dangerous and unpredictable. In addition, anti-malware software will generally focus on protecting you from being attacked while on the Internet, while antivirus will tend to focus on attacks being delivered by traditional means, such as through an email attachment.

No single solution will protect you from everything that threatens you out in the wild, and ideally you should use a multi-layered approach to gain the very best protection. All-in-one security solutions are just not enough to catch everything, so by using two or more solutions you stand the very best chance of catching a threat because you have more than one pair of eyes watching out for it.

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