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Does Antivirus Detect and Remove All Malware?
March 6, 2023

Does Antivirus Detect and Remove All Malware?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

You pay for a good antivirus suite, so it should be able to detect all viruses and threats, right? That’s easier said than done…

If you’re concerned with your digital security, chances are you have some kind of antivirus program installed on your devices. Antivirus software can be hugely beneficial in maintaining your safety on and offline, but do they work 100 percent of the time? Does antivirus remove all malware and viruses?

How Does Antivirus Software Work?

Antivirus programs are inherently crucial in our digital activities, especially when online. There are thousands of cybercriminals around the world looking to exploit unsuspecting victims, be it for their data or money or both. Cybercrime is a huge industry, so it’s no surprise that most of us use some form of antivirus program to protect ourselves.

All antivirus programs have their own differences, but many of them work in a very similar way.

A typical antivirus program will scan your device for suspicious or harmful incoming files or apps on a regular basis, including malware and viruses. You can either conduct manual scans or have the program run scans automatically. Antivirus software comes equipped with a database of dangerous code, files, and other content so that it can more effectively highlight what may pose a danger to you and your device.

Once an antivirus program detects a malicious file or program, it will quarantine or isolate it so that it can no longer interact with other parts of your device. The program will then scan this file or program to see if it is indeed harmful, and will then delete it from your device if it deems that it could be endangering you or already is.

But just how good is antivirus software at removing threats? Should you be concerned about any remaining risks?

Does Antivirus Delete All Malware?

You’re likely paying a flat fee or monthly subscription if you’re using a legitimate antivirus program (although there are free antiviruses too). So, in exchange for your money, you should expect total success, right? Not exactly.

In short, there’s no antivirus program out there that has a 100 percent success rate. Even the most popular and trusted antivirus providers out there, such as Norton and McAfee, cannot detect, quarantine, and delete every single dangerous program or file. There are numerous reasons why this is, starting with the antivirus databases.

As previously discussed, antivirus software uses a database of known malicious files and code to identify anything dangerous on your devices. If a kind of malware comes along that isn’t logged on the antivirus database, it stands a chance of flying under the radar. Say, for instance, an antivirus provider failed to properly update its databases; this would increase the risk of its customers being infected by malware.

What’s more, certain kinds of malware and viruses are highly sophisticated and can be specifically designed to evade antivirus detection. Take a stealth virus, for example. This is a type of computer virus with the ability to bypass antivirus barriers, making them incredibly dangerous to potential victims. Using code modification and encryption, this kind of code can evade your standard antivirus scans, and often require more high-level software to be stopped.

It’s also worth noting that the chance of malware evading detection on your device increases if you never update your antivirus software. Software updates play an important role in ironing out flaws, removing bugs, and improving the overall quality of the program in question. So, if you avoid updating your antivirus for a long period of time, there could be numerous security vulnerabilities present that cybercriminals can exploit.

However, Norton and McAfee, two highly-rated antivirus programs, both have high success rates of 99 percent (as stated by Cybernews), so they’re still hugely beneficial.

On top of this, many antivirus programs offer an array of additional security features on top of simple virus and malware detection. VPNs, password managers, anti-spam, file shredders, and firewalls are just a few of the useful features that you can use on a modern antivirus program to safeguard your devices.

How to Keep Yourself Safe on Your Devices

Though antivirus programs are not completely airtight, you should still do what you can to maintain your safety by dodging malware.

First off, you can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs are protocols that send your internet traffic through a remote server, which encrypts all data and makes it indecipherable to prying eyes. This means that parties like your ISP, the government, and malicious actors do not have access to your online activity. This layer of privacy and security can make your online experience that much safer.

There are various trusted VPN providers out there today, including NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and SurfShark. These all require a flat or monthly fee but are generally a safer and trustier option than free VPNs, which can record data logs or offer subpar protection.

Additionally, you can use link-checking websites to scan website URLs and determine if they’re safe. Cybercriminals commonly spread malware or carry out social engineering scams using malicious links. So, before you click on any link that is sent to you, make sure you run it through a checker to confirm its legitimacy.

When you’re on the internet, it definitely pays to make wise decisions. For example, if you want to download an app, and it’s only available via a shady website, it’s always best to trust your gut and steer clear. If a new sender provides you with an attachment or link, be cautious, and if a service or product seems too good to be true, it likely is. Using trusted websites is key, be it streaming sites, retailers, app stores, or otherwise.

If you use email, enabling your provider’s spam filters is also a good idea. Email spam filters pick up on possible spam mail and move it to a separate folder, which prevents it from showing up in your direct inbox. This can keep you away from malicious communications, some of which may contain malware-spreading links or attachments. Most reputable email providers have an anti-spam feature, including Gmail, Proton Mail, and Outlook.

You should also ensure that all your devices are password protected. While a lot of malware and viruses are spread remotely, there have been many cases of manual infection, wherein the attacker needs direct access to the target device. To lower the chances of this, you should lock all your devices with a password, or biometric scanning, to ensure that only you are gaining access.

Antivirus Isn’t Perfect but Plays a Vital Role

Though antivirus programs don’t work 100 percent of the time, they’re still crucially important in maintaining your digital security. If you’re using a reputable and trusted antivirus provider, keep it up, as this software is working to keep your device safe from malware and viruses. It’s not a perfect technology, but we should definitely keep it around!


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