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Antivirus software searches the hard disk of a computer to identify, neutralize or eliminate malicious software, such as computer viruses, or malware, such as worms, phishing attacks, rootkits and Trojans. Antivirus software scans files to look for known viruses that match definitions in a virus dictionary. It also looks for suspicious behavior from any computer program that might indicate that there has been an infection. Most antivirus programs include an auto-update feature that checks for profiles of newly created viruses to add to the virus dictionary.

Given the growth of computer viruses and malware, antivirus software should be installed on any computer used by teleworkers if they access files from USB drives, diskettes, or access the internet, even if just for web surfing and email. For maximum protection, teleworkers should have their antivirus software enabled at all times, and they should use the software in combination with a firewall. In addition, most security problems can be avoided by keeping browser and OS software updated with the latest security patches.

Antivirus software is generally easy to install and use, and is a good tool for locating and deleting computer viruses from a teleworker's computer. Most antivirus software vendors update their virus databases so your teleworkers can protect themselves against the latest viruses. If not kept up-to-date with the latest virus signatures, antivirus software becomes less effective and potentially useless.

Be aware that some antivirus software can reduce system performance. Teleworkers may be tempted to disable antivirus software to eliminate the performance issues, increasing chances for infection.

Antivirus software will not protect against unwanted features in programs you choose to install, spam, fraud or criminal activity, or internet attacks, such as hackers trying to break into a teleworker's computer over the internet.

Look for these features in antivirus software:

  • Frequency and responsiveness of signature updates
  • Identification of viruses and worms
  • Cleaning or isolating infected files
  • Activity reports
  • Ease of setup and use
  • Level and quality of help documentation and tech support

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This page was last updated on May 6, 2009