How a Cloud Antivirus Works

Panda Cloud Antivirus

The full event report in Panda Cloud Antivirus includes details about when it scanned your system and what malware it detected.
The full event report in Panda Cloud Antivirus includes details about when it scanned your system and what malware it detected.
Screenshot by Stephanie Crawford for HowStuffWorks

Panda Cloud Antivirus, by Panda Security, is available in both Free and Pro editions for Windows 7, Vista and XP (Service Pack 2 or later). As soon as you install Panda Cloud Antivirus, a panda head logo appears in your System Tray, indicating that the software is running. Click the panda head to open the user interface (UI) for the client software. You can also right-click the panda head to select other options, such as enabling or disabling the software.

The UI opens to a status screen indicating whether there are errors to handle or if the system is OK. If the software is currently running a scan, you'll also see green bars moving across a progress bar. If there's no scan running, you can start one. To do that, click the Scan icon at the top, which looks like a magnifying glass. There you have the following scanning options:

  • Optimized Scan -- Scan select folders and files on your Windows system that are vulnerable to known malware.
  • Other scans > Scan all My computer -- Scan everything on your Windows system. This could take a long time if you have a lot of data on your hard drive.
  • Other scans > Scan other items -- Check the boxes for specific folders that you want scanned for malware.

When Panda Cloud Antivirus finishes a scan, it refreshes the status to indicate whether there are any security problems. If the status is not OK, you can either click a linked message indicating how many errors were found, or you can click the reports icon at the top which looks like a pie graph. On the reports screen, you'll see a breakdown of the types of malware Panda Cloud Antivirus found on your computer. There's also a link to view the full event report, which shows a log of all the application's scanning activity, all the malicious files it found and what it did with those files when it found them.

Like other antivirus applications, Panda Cloud Antivirus will quarantine some suspect files that it can't definitively determine to be malware. Panda Cloud Antivirus calls that quarantine its recycle bin, a concept familiar to Windows users. This means the files are neutralized by renaming them in a way that makes them difficult to find. If a file ends up in the recycle bin, Panda Cloud Antivirus gives you a chance to recover that file so it's usable again.

Each cloud antivirus client will have default settings and options to change some of those settings. If you click the gear in the lower right of the UI, the window appears to flip to its options screen. You can flip this back by clicking the gear in the lower left while you're on the options screen. Here's a list of things you can adjust in the Panda Cloud Antivirus settings:

  • Connection settings through a proxy server (rare for home users but common for people working on a business network)
  • Enable/disable automatic scans (autorun)
  • Enable/disable scanning USB drives, referred to as a vaccination (available in the Pro edition only)
  • Advanced settings to adjust how the scans, recycle bin and reports work.

Next, let's consider some of the challenges cloud antivirus technology faces and how some software companies have addressed those challenges in their products.