Every IT person ever has told you to run a daily malware scan. But no one really explains why you need a daily malware scan and what happens if you feel a little adventurous and don’t run malware scans. In this article, we will go through everything you need to know about malware, malware scans, and how you can set up a daily malware scan if you don’t know-how.
You will be far more educated and informed on cyber security and malware threats at the end of this article. So let us start where all stories start, at the beginning.
What is malware?
Malware sounds like a very aggressive and alarming name for something because it is intended to sound that way. Malware is short for malicious software. Malware is any kind of software or file that has a malicious intent built into it. That malicious intent can manifest in a lot of ways like spying, sabotage, fraud, blackmail, ransom, and much more. Malware could be a virus, botnet, ransomware, a trojan, or any of the other hundred types of computer baddies.
All of these come under the umbrella of malware. Basically, malware is anything designed to do things inside your computer without your consent. Which is never appreciated by the person whose computer is infected, for obvious reasons.
How does malware make it into your system?
Malware can only work and achieve its objective once it is inside your computer. And these days, there are hundreds of ways malware can make it into your system. Malware can get installed into your system through fake downloads, phishing emails, infected attachments, infected devices like USBs or smartphones, and even visiting certain websites.
The threat of malware is persistent whenever you use your computer. Even if your computer is air-gapped, meaning not connected to the internet. It can be infected using malware.
Why do we need malware scans?
This is where anti-malware programs come in. Anti-Malware programs, or more commonly known as Antivirus programs, work to identify, quarantine, and remove malware. And the first step of this process starts with a malware scan.
Malware scans are a way of providing real-time protection to your computer. By running a malware scan, your anti-virus solution can keep your system safe from any malicious threat. And running malware scans these days isn’t a safety precaution. It is a necessity. It is the same reason societies maintain the police force. A malware scan is a proactive measure instead of a reactionary one.
Malicious intent towards you could be for any reason. Malware can be targeted at you in particular, or it could be part of a wider attack. Sometimes malware is injected into your system so malicious actors can hold your files for ransom. Other times malware is designed to keep in the shadows and hide, collect data, and send it to the malicious actor. Sometimes the malware can be as harmless as downloading advertisement materials like pop-ups and banners. These are called adware.
Your first priority should be to make sure that malware never gets on your system, no matter the intent. And if it does, how do you identify and remove it.
This is where malware scans come in. They provide real-time protection to your system. So let us take a look at how a malware scan works.
How does it work?
Malware scans work by scanning your system for computer viruses. All malware scans are not created equal. And not all malware scans are equally effective. But let us go through the basics of how malware scans work.
Malware scans usually consist of the following 4 processes. Signature-based detection, Heuristics, Sandbox, and Removal. All of this sounds complicated, but this is important to understand if you want to know how malware scans keep your computer safe.
Let us assume you have set up an anti-virus solution that runs daily malware scans for your system. Malware scans can be set up at any frequency you want. But running them every 15 minutes is resource-intensive and doesn’t provide a lot of value. Usually, a daily malware scan is an optimal frequency.
Every day, your anti-virus solution runs the malware scan. The anti-virus software goes through each of the files stored on your computer and analyzes them. All malware has a unique code or signature that gives them away, and the malware scan catches it.
The collected signature of the malware is sent to a database that contains the virus signature. At least the viruses that have been identified and studied previously. Once the database gives a confirmation that the file is a virus, your anti-malware software immediately deletes that file. This is called signature-based detection.
Thousands of malware are developed every day. So that means your anti-virus program during a malware scan may come across malware that hasn’t been identified yet. In that case, malware scans do a thing called heuristics. Basically, this approach to identify malware looks for behavioral patterns to find the malware.
Sometimes files are suspected of being malware. Then, in that case, they are moved to a thing called Sandbox or Quarantine, where they can’t cause any harm. Removal tools are the last bit of any anti-virus solution. They remove all traces of malware from the computer.
How does a daily malware scan provide me value?
Daily malware scans are of immense value to any system. It doesn’t matter if the computer is for personal or professional use. Malware scans ensure all malicious software is wiped from your computer. But why the need to run daily malware scans, you might ask?
The same reason why the police patrol the street. You can’t fight a threat if you don’t know a threat exists. Daily malware scans make sure nothing has made it past your good sense or your computer’s defenses throughout the day.
Malware scans can potentially save you money. Many hackers nowadays to ransomware attacks where they encrypt your files and then ask money to unlock those files. Daily malware scans can prevent that from happening.
Malware scans also look for spying software that is not intended to extort money but to send your personal data to hackers. Without daily malware scans, you could be spied upon for months without you even realizing it.
How can I set up malware scans?
Setting up daily malware scans can be easy. First, you need to check out what anti-malware solution works for you. There are plenty of paid and free malware solutions out there. Almost all have features that enable them to run an automatic daily malware scan.
After you have selected your anti-malware solution. You need to look at a guide for that particular software on setting it up daily malware scans. Usually, this setting is under real-time protection or active protection settings. Services that provide daily malware scans aren’t just limited to this. They also offer other valuable tools like quarantining harmful files and file disposal systems. These programs are designed as the one-stop solution to all your cyber security needs.
The harm of not running malware scans?
Malware scans are the first line of defense for your system. Running them daily keeps your system clean from any unwanted software that has made it into the system. A malware scan can increase your computer’s performance. This is because malware is using computer resources that can slow it down a lot of the time.
A malware scan is used ensure you have all the updated virus definitions and beautiful data on new types of malware on the loose. A malware scan is able to detect that before any harm can be done to your computer.
Most of the time, that malware on your computer is not targeted. But part of a broader attack. Things like botnets are used by hackers to pool the resources of thousands of computers for some nefarious purpose. Without running malware scans, you might not even notice that your computer is part of a botnet. So, these keep you safe, even when you don’t realize there was a threat, to begin with.
Concluding Remarks on malware scans.
Using anti-virus on our computers is a critical part of our digital hygiene. If we don’t take steps to make our digital space safe, malicious actors can take advantage of that. And they can exploit our lack of defenses to their advantage. You can expect financial and data security loss if you don’t have the necessary safeguards in place to stop that from happening.
Running a daily malware scan ensures that you are always in the loop about what goes on in your computer. As we move towards a more digital personal and professional ecosystem, we always have to start working to develop a more robust digital hygiene. Check out our maintenance package where we offer daily malware scans!