Antivirus vs Anti-malware

in news •  last year

In a perfect world there would be no viruses or other diseases and no one would ever get sick but.., since little nasties that make you feel lousy do exist. Prevention seems like a pretty good idea doesn't it?


For people, the solutions are pretty well established, but online it's not always so clear. Computer nasties can be hidden in links, downloaded files and even pop-ups or other advertisements. So you'll need software to protect yourself, but, how do you know which one? Most internet security companies try to market their service as one of two things; ANTIVIRUS or ANTI-MALWARE, but wait a second, isn’t malware just any software that's "mal" or "bad" so wouldn’t viruses just be a subset of that, what gives?


Let's think of security software as people and viruses as music. An anti-virus program would be sort of like your dad, sure he's got a lot of life experience which is great, but his taste in music is pretty much oldies. It takes a lot of repetition for a new song to enter his repertoire.


Antivirus programs in much the same way, are mostly effective on the more “classic” types of malware or at least the types that have seen the most press. Things like worms Trojans and some key-loggers will be on their watch list but often trendier types of malware like zero-day or zero-hour exploits, ones that take advantage of a vulnerability almost immediately after it's found before the software maker has any time to patch it are not covered.


Anti-malware programs are sort of like dad's teenage daughter. They have to be up on the latest trends and the most popular new songs but they may have never heard of Hey Jude or Yellow Submarine.


The software that anti-malware companies make in the same way is much more “hip” or “with it” and this is important because without great software like Malwarebytes for instance, some zero-day or zero-hour exploits would exist for months before we got a reliable fix. This would potentially compromise the security of thousands or even millions of people depending on the severity. The thing about them though, is they often don't worry about keeping a fix for viruses that are months or years old around because by that time antivirus programs should have them covered.


So then if antivirus and anti-malware programs attack different types of malware how do you determine which one you should use? The answer is both, but hold on a second there..., you may have heard that running two security programs simultaneously is bad for performance. That is definitely true and if you use both a real-time scanning antivirus and anti-malware program at the same time, that could slow down your PC and can even cause conflicts between the two programs scan functions.


The trick is to run an active anti-virus scanner that serves as a catch-all and have an on-demand anti-malware program that you can run full scans with periodically or when you notice a change in your computer's performance.


But how should you determine which program to use? Well the answer is to do your research at the time you're getting it. Watch out for paid options that are redundant or only applicable in a setting with multiple simultaneous users like in a small business and check out the latest reports on the effectiveness of the various software's out there because they're changing relative to each other all the time. The good news is that there are a ton of awesome antivirus and anti-malware services out there and though this may surprise some of the less tech-savvy readers; free does not equal bad when it comes to these services.

(Photos courtesy of

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This changes my whole perception of anti-malware and antivirus. So much to learn in this post. I have to bookmark it for future reference.


Many people seem to get confused by these two

Wow...the explanation was simple enough for me despite the fact that I'm oldskool when it comes to technology. Thanks @njoromuts!


Hehe realized it would be simpler to use the classic dad & trendy daughter euphemisms

Great read for the non-techies, really informative, simple and straight to the point.

I actually had an issue with my laptop the other day. Thanks for this article, now I know what to do.