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Not-a-virus definition

Not-a-virus is a notification from a cybersecurity tool (usually antivirus software) that a file or application contains possible threats that are not viruses. While this often refers to hidden adware or riskware, not-a-virus notifications might also pop up in response to legitimate programs like IRC clients, password managers, and FTP services.

Real “not-a-virus” examples

  • Adware and riskware secretly bundled with legitimate programs
  • Remote admin applications because of the control they have over the user’s system
  • Cryptocurrency miners that abuse your computer’s processing power
  • FTP, web, proxy, telnet, and other internet server services that give privileged access to the system
  • IRC clients because they can open security backdoors into the network

Stopping threats identified as “not-a-virus”

  • Enable threat monitoring in your antivirus. Most antivirus tools have a “Threats” and “Detect other software” section in their settings. Turning it on will notify you about riskware on your device.
  • Use malware cleaner apps. Malware cleaners can scan your device to identify and remove malicious files.
  • Use Threat Protection. NordVPN’s Threat Protection feature will notify you about malicious websites, block potentially dangerous ads, and scan files for malware during downloads.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security