What is Antivirus?

Antivirus software is a class of applications that protect computers and remove malicious software or code designed to damage computers or data. Today, malware is evolving so rapidly that some estimate a new malware instance is created nearly every second. Conventional antivirus solutions alone are no longer as effective as they need to be in order to counter threats. For these reasons, many of today’s antivirus solution vendors are adopting methodologies that combine global scanning, human expert threat analysis, industry collaboration, cloud integration, and alerting services.

Why a new approach to antivirus has become necessary?

Protecting an organization’s digital assets against malware has become a challenge because of the sheer volume and diversity of the emerging threats. In the early days of the commercial antivirus industry – 1990s into the 2000s – most solutions employed a series of common techniques.

Signature-based detection identifies malware by comparing code in a program to the code of known virus types that have already been encountered, analyzed and recorded in a database. While useful and still in use, signature-based detection has become limited due to the continuous emergence of new viruses. To counter this problem, heuristic detection scans for suspicious characteristics that can be found in unknown, new viruses and modified versions of known viruses. Rootkit detection scans and blocks malicious code designed to gain administrative access to a machine, and real-time detection scans and monitors files as they are accessed.

When zero-day attacks began occurring, antivirus vendors had to develop and adopt new methodologies to counter the emerging threats. These next-gen approaches extend signature-based detection with behavioral detection, machine learning, sandboxing, and other techniques that are optimized to address threats such as malicious URLs, browser hijackers, advanced persistent threats, and phishing exploits.

New security challenges

The following trends and challenges are changing the way organizations implement cybersecurity:

  • With the number and diversity of threats increasing exponentially, it’s no longer viable for organizations to fight an attack on their own; global intelligence sharing and collaboration is now necessary to detect and stop emerging threats.
  • As signature-based approaches become less effective, antivirus solutions will need to tap into global intelligence sources, and bring that knowledge from the cloud to stop attacks before they can cause damage.
  • The widespread adoption of bring your own device (BYOD), device proliferation, and the Internet of Things is vastly expanding the threat surfaces that IT security administrators will need to protect.

Addressing security challenges

The days when off-the-shelf antivirus software was good enough to keep an organization’s computers safe from viruses are long gone. Today, malicious coders and hackers are experts at evasive tactics that shield their activities. Therefore, in today’s cybersecurity landscape, the antivirus is just one of the many tools in an organization’s cybersecurity arsenal to keep the business safe. The antivirus solution should be implemented as part of the organization’s endpoint security solution that combines global threat intelligence and advanced threat prevention engines that address zero-day and other next-gen threats.

 

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