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In this internet-centered world, security and safety cannot be taken too seriously. With businesses being almost if not entirely digital in all of their office tasks, communications and transactions, they’re just as vulnerable as individual people when it comes to the threats that crawl out of the shadier side of the digital world.
Unfortunately, many businesses and private individuals alike shirk antivirus software such as AVG, considering them too inconvenient to use. This is because of the memory and CPU usage resulting from these suites, as well as their impetus to scan every communication and download before said data can be utilized. Due to these honestly mild inconveniences, most users and businesses simply ignore this sort of software and assume the less obtrusive Windows Security Center and Windows Firewall will suffice.
This can’t be further from the truth! Certainly, Windows’ security and protection features go a long way to prevent various common threats. However, some of the dangers lurking on the internet that only something like AVG Antivirus stands a chance of thwarting.
While these digital dangers aren’t the bombastic spectacles Hollywood often shows in cyberpunk films, they’re every bit as dangerous if not more.
What are these mysterious threats? What do they do, and how does AVG prevent them, if the crack team of developers at Microsoft can’t?
There are basically four types of major threats online, not all of which are viruses.
Of course, viruses are the most well-known and somewhat well-understood online hazard, dating back to the early days of the internet and corporate networks in the 1980s. These monsters got their name from behaving a lot like biological viruses. They embed themselves inside the binary of existing files, their code executing as the files are opened or indexed.
Viruses can do all manner of destructive things, such as gradually disabling components of the operating system, damaging files and even performing espionage. Most viruses, however, are simply assaults, disabling parts of or all of a system or network. They can be contagious, traveling from computer to computer via local networks, emails or downloads.
One of the most famous viruses that caused havoc in the late 1990s on into the early 2000s was the Win32.CIH or Chernobyl virus. CIH would slowly hog memory, slow down processors and file access and randomly destabilize running programs. In other words, it would severely inconvenience and annoy users. Unfortunately, this bug did have fangs as on the anniversary of the Chernobyl meltdown, it would completely cripple the operating system, requiring a reinstall. Back then, reinstalling an operating system meant all data on the hard drive was lost forever.
The second kind of threat, similar to a virus, is a worm. Worms don’t need to embed themselves in system data, waiting for some external program to activate them, or for windows’ own paging and access to cause their code to execute. Worms are stand-alone, evil programs that hide in the operating system. They can self-replicate, allowing them to spread like a virus, only faster in most cases.
Worms are far more dangerous, and far more powerful in their capabilities to cause sorrow. These are more commonly used for information/data theft and sabotage. They pose a potential threat as a weapon in future warfare – a threat most governments take very, very seriously.
The third threat is malware. Malware often disguises itself as a useful, legitimate program. While presenting themselves as a harmless application, they’re secretly up to no good. They can hijack a computer’s internet connection to route data (often of an illegal nature), steal sensitive information, monitor browsing behavior to sell to advertisers, and other devious things.
Malware is one of the more commonly encountered, visible problems businesses. One of the more common symptoms of malware are hijacked searches, forcing browsers to use unknown, less than legitimate search engines, as well as ad-riddled extensions being installed in browsers.
The final threat is truly terrifying. File hijacking is a fairly recent problem, wherein a dangerous program or attachment in an email will let hackers into a computer. Once in there, they encrypt all the non-system files on the computer so that they cannot be opened without a password. An email follows, demanding a payment for the decryption (usually in Bitcoins of all ridiculous things).
This is a problem that tends to happen to businesses more often than individuals, due to the files being lost is far more damaging. Undoing this encryption is possible, but is difficult, not guaranteed to restore all files, and few people know how to do this. Prevention of it is critical.
Why can’t Windows’ security features prevent these? The answer has nothing to do with the competence of Microsoft’s developers. It in fact boils down to mild greed. Microsoft offers solutions similar to AVG Antivirus, though said solutions tend to be inferior.
This results in Windows having a very basic protection layer against worms, viruses and malware, but it’s not very effective. In stead of the analysis performed by AVG and its peers, Microsoft’s built in protection simply looks at the signing of programs, warning against suspicious configurations and file headers. This stops quite a few of the more mild, commonplace annoyances lurking out there.
AVG works a lot harder and is far more studious.
Working like a biological immune system responding to vaccination, AVG frequently downloads definition files which help it identify viruses hiding in a computer’s files, as well as identifying malware programs and worms.
With automated protection enabled, AVG will scan the system frequently, spotting and nasty data, and removing it from the files in which it hides, or quarantining the file to prevent the infection from spreading. It will also scan all emails and their attachments, either repairing or preventing the download of infected data.
Similarly, it also scans all downloaded files, disallowing any access of them until it’s either determined the file is clean, or has cleaned it of any hazardous data embedded in said downloads.
With hard working professionals constantly providing new definitions to spot the endless onslaught of new threats, AVG is always ready to prevent these vile things from achieving their sinister goals.
Given the proper permissions, AVG can also scan the running processes and installed software, spotting worms and malware that have hidden themselves in the system. AVG will surgically remove these intrusions, where Windows protection features will neither spot them nor do a single thing about them.
AVG can also integrate with most popular browsers (Chrome, Explorer/Edge, Firefox, Safari), to help prevent dangerous pages and scripts from loading. This is actually very helpful, as web content has become so sophisticated as to allow another channel for viruses and worms to invade a computer or an entire network.
Still, even knowing all these threats, and how AVG works to thwart them, the full-featured version of AVG is not free or particularly cheap. And, many users will indeed feel inconvenienced by its heavy-handed babysitting if its settings are turned up high enough. It’s easy to think that, unless a business or user has a worth of millions of dollars or more, that it’s worth just taking a chance, and figuring an attack will just not happen.
Unfortunately, many of these attacks aren’t “aimed”, but simply released into the wild, to spread and happen upon any unprotected computer or network. If a computer or network is connected to the internet, and is used long enough, something will inevitably get in eventually.
In recent times, it only takes one small intrusion to cause untold havoc, as said intruding program will open more channels for more, nastier infections to take hold, until the system is completely eaten alive.
This kind of vulnerability of communications, transactions and information can result in real nightmares. Companies can be bankrupted, individuals can suffer identity theft and fraud. The damages of this sort of thing can reach into the millions or even worse if left unchecked.
Beyond the prevention of financial and personal loss, the presence of a strong protection system such as AVG can result in a positive gain as well. The peace of mind that comes with knowing these threats are prevented goes beyond just the relief felt by a business.
A business known to be both savvy enough to consider these threats, and willing to take all the needed measures to prevent them, is a business with a good reputation in the digital millennium. As time goes on, people will commonly have an increasing understanding of how computers work, and what kinds of pitfalls threaten their quality of life and professional success.
Knowing that a business protects all of its assets, transactions and information the proper way, any inconvenience or cost be darned, will weigh just as heavily as a business’ professional reputation in the very near future. Really, it already does to a decent extent.
It all really boils down to this – these threats aren’t going to go away, they’re only going to increase. Devices that have famously claimed to be impossible to hack or infect, have always resulted in some spiteful but brilliant programmer proving them wrong. This goes for the Macintosh computers, the iPhone, even modern game consoles.
Moving forward, more and more parts of life both personal and professional will involve computers and the internet. The internet of things, where various parts of a building are digitally controlled, is going to be commonplace by the middle of this century if not sooner. Security systems, locks and even utility and environmental control systems will all be controlled by embedded systems over internet-exposed networks. An intrusion into these systems could result in burglary, invasion of privacy and even potentially physically dangerous results.
A business adopting a positive attitude about antivirus software now, means that in the future as this increasingly computerized environment solidifies its hold on the world, its corporate culture is one that’s used to the added security, and is therefore ready to embrace any preventative measures necessary to stop the convenient “world of tomorrow” from becoming a world of nightmares and chaos.
And, as said earlier, some belligerent nation could, at any time, deploy a malicious virus or worm that could cripple entire corporations. This threat, too, will only elevate in the future.
In closing, the internet is a wonderful tool, and one that’s going to continue to grow its presence in 21st century life. However, any tool can also be a weapon. Just because a business has managed to operate the past twenty years without a major intrusion, does not mean it will not happen. There’s no such thing as luck, only probability. Nobody can cheat the odds forever.
Antivirus software isn’t just beneficial, it’s positively crucial. Personal users can often get away with a reduced suite that costs little or nothing, due to the lower risk of loss, and lower value as a target. Businesses cannot afford to skimp on this.
AVG Antivirus isn’t the only one out there. Other comparable tools include Norton and MacAfee. However, of these three big names in antivirus protection, AVG has garnered a strong reputation for being the fastest responder to new threats. Their programmers have done an excellent job of reducing the AVG services’ amount of CPU and memory usage, as well as making the necessary system and download scans much faster.
AVG also tends to be the more affordable solution, and according to many forums, also has the best support around. Of course, such things are subjective, but the internet is more prone to complain about bad support than to praise good support – there must therefore be something to it.
Ultimately, a business that doesn’t adopt one of these antivirus systems is a business that wants to fail. A business that chooses AVG Antivirus is one that understands the need for a less obtrusive, more efficient and affordable protection system.