Ensure Your OS Antivirus and Anti-Malware Protections are Active

Training Code
Topic 1.2
On Demand
Location type


The Bottom Line

In addition to regularly updating your operating system and applications (apps), you should ensure your device’s native antivirus and anti-malware protections are enabled to provide protection against the latest malware threats.

The Problem

Despite our best intentions and cyber awareness training, mistakes happen. We open a malicious attachment, download a bad file, or click the wrong link. While these are well-known attack vectors, they can still be extremely effective means of initial access for an adversary.

In addition, threat actors sometimes find and exploit vulnerabilities in operating systems and apps before developers are aware they exist or can make a patch to fix them.

Even if you regularly update your OS and apps as instructed in Topic 1.1, you are still vulnerable to attacks since developers have not developed a patch to address every vulnerability.

The Solution

Ensure your device has antivirus and anti-malware protection.

You should think of regular OS and app updates as your first line of defense. But even a fully patched and updated system may be exploited in a new attack or through malware that takes advantage of vulnerabilities for which developers have not created patches.

Antivirus vs. Anti-malware

When used together, antivirus and anti-malware software protect your device against traditional and emerging malware threats. You should ensure your device is benefiting from both.

Antivirus software blocks or removes traditional forms of malware when it detects suspicious activity based on patterns associated with known threats.

Anti-malware software uses techniques to detect and remove new and more sophisticated malware strains.

Antivirus and anti-malware protections are an effective second line of defense for when your developer hasn’t issued a patch. These programs detect and remove malicious software, providing an added layer of protection.

NOTE: Adware pop-ups in your browser may disguise themselves as antivirus software. If you receive an alert through your browser (e.g., a red stop sign with an urgent message prompting you to click to enable antivirus scanning), you should exercise extreme caution because it may be malware.  

Most operating systems, such as Windows and macOS, have native antivirus and anti-malware solutions, so you will not have to navigate the complexities of choosing a third-party solution.

While no single antivirus or anti-malware program can guarantee 100% protection against viruses or malware, the following three steps provide a layered approach to security:  

  1. Ensure that your computer is using its native antivirus and anti-malware solutions.

Windows OS

macOS and iOS


  1. Keep your apps and OS up to date. (See Topic 1.1 for more detailed guidance.)
  2. Periodically ensure that your antivirus and anti-malware solutions are still running and updated with the latest security patches.



  • Regularly update your OS and apps.
  • Use the native antivirus and anti-malware solutions on your device.

Do Not

  • Rely solely on antivirus and anti-malware software and ignore routine updates to the OS and apps.


Project Upskill is a product of the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative 


  • Module 1: Basic Cybersecurity for Personal Computers and Mobile Devices
    • Topic 1.0: Implement User Account Control to Protect Your Personal Computer
    • Topic 1.1: Keep Your Device’s Operating System and Applications Up to Date