What’s the difference between antivirus and anti-malware?

Ultimately there are two major types of protection when it comes  to online security. Antivirus and anti-malware. The inevitable query is what is the difference between the two?

What are viruses and malware?

A virus is a piece of code that is capable of copying itself to do damage to your computer, including corrupting your system or destroying data. Malware, on the other hand is an umbrella term that stands for a variety of malicious software, including Trojans, spyware, worms, adware, ransomware and viruses. So the thing is – all viruses ARE malware. Not all malware are viruses..

Viruses are seen as legacy threats. This means they’ve been in existance for a while and haven’t changed very much. Today’s cyber criminals don’t use them very often which is why so many anti-virus companies have evolved to fight more than “just” viruses.  This can include infectious malware like worms, web threats like keyloggers or concealement malware.

So why do antivirus companies still call themselves antivirus? Since viruses made headlines in the 90’s security companies focused their efforts on fighting them. Most people are familiar with the term ‘computer viruses’ but not a lot of people know what malware is.



There are key differences between antivirus and anti-malware software. The difference between antivirus and anti-malware companies are the types of malware they specialise in and how they combat them.

Antivirus usually deals with older, more established threats such as Trojans, viruses and worms. Anti-malware in comparison typically focuses on newer stuff such as polymorphic malware and malware delivered by zero-day exploits. Antivirus protects users from lingering, predictable yet still dangerous malware. Anti-malware protects users from the latest and even more dangerout threats. In addition, anti-malware typically updates its rules faster than antivirus, meaning that it’s the best protection against new malware you might encounter while surfing the net. By contrast, antivirus is best at crushing malware you might contract from a traditional source such as a USB or an email attachment.

Which one should you have?

No one tool can catch everything, which is why Leaf recommend a ‘layered approach.’ It’s better to have more than one set of eyes looking at threats from different angles.

The best thing to do is use an antivirus programme to catch classic threats and an anti-malware program such as Malwarebytes for the newer, more advanced dangers.

Most anti-malware software is lightweight, easy-to-run and designed to work alongside antivirus which means you don’t need to worry about the impact of running two real-time scanners at the same time on your machines’s performance.