AntiVirus: Is It Still Effective?

The debate has been ongoing for years. Is antivirus software still effective as part of a robust business security plan? It was once the go-to security prevention method with businesses of all sizes utilising it as a way of keeping the hackers at bay. But times have changed.

While some researchers pronounce antivirus software as dead and unnecessary, there are others that firmly believe it still has a place in security strategies. So who do you believe?

With so many conflicting opinions, it’s hard to tell. That’s why we’ve asked our experts at Pure Cloud to help us get to grips with the debate when it comes to cyber threats.

It’s old, past it, dead … isn’t it?

Firstly, let’s take a look at why some think antivirus is about to meet it’s fatal end. As far back as 2014, Symantec’s Senior Vice President claimed that it is only effective against less than 50 percent of cyber attacks. More recently, detection rates of antivirus products have been shown to actually fall, year on year. IT professionals are also increasingly recognising the shortcomings of traditional antivirus protection. 69 percent of companies said that they don’t believe that it provides adequate protection for their systems. That’s a bold statement.

Although the days of PCs being virus-ridden boxes of dismay are long gone, it doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of criminals out there creating malicious programs with the intent to steal something or just create havoc. The truth is, antivirus technology is older than most think, having been created in an early form in 1987. So it’s no suprise that people are questioning it’s ability to protect them against modern threats.

No longer sufficient?

While antivirus software isn’t quite at the end yet, it’s clearly no longer a sufficient solution for business protection from newer threats like malware. In truth, it depends on the type you use. For example signature-based software has always been somewhat flawed. This solution uses a definition-based system which the software regularly updates to cover new threats.  If a signature matches a known threat, the software is flagged as malicious and isolated to prevent any damage. As a result, it is constantly pushing out updates to protect against new threats. Except the stakes are much higher than they were years ago.

That’s because the threat landscape has shifted dramatically in recent years. Cyber-criminals are now as likely to use social engineering to compromise a system as they are to try sneaking a trojan onto a network. Enticing a user to unleash a web-based threat is something antivirus software was never really intended to protect against. Plus, even “old school” threats are far more sophisticated than ever before. Hackers create viruses that morph and spread, specifically designed to evade protective software. So while signature-based protection isn’t enough, it’s still important. You need protection against known viruses and bugs,so it’s a good idea to install it on your devices until something else can do this better.

Antivirus is still alive & kicking

But it’s not all doom and gloom for antivirus. The major antivirus solutions have evolved beyond signature-based protection and now include advanced techniques for malware detection. Behavior analytics, artificial intelligence, patching automation, and big data analysis are all very capable when it comes to identifying and disarming threats. Antivirus programs now block more than just Trojans, worms, viruses, and other harmful bugs, but also sophisticated attacks and ransomware threats.

So really, it can protect you from most threats.  We aren’t naive though. No single solution is 100% effective at detecting and removing malware, but it’s still effective for the most part. Scanning for known malware has little value when you encounter new, unknown malware. That’s why so many antivirus products now have sophisticated features that can detect unseen threats. Major vendors have been expanding their products and bundling-in new features that go beyond basic malware protection, such as encryption and patching automation.

Don’t doubt it … just yet

Just because anti-virus software won’t give you 100% protection, doesn’t mean that it’s not an essential security precaution. Good antivirus software will at least give you another chance to stop new threats before they reach the core of your networks. There’s no good reason not to have it. In fact, many AV programs have little system-performance impact, and many good ones are free.

In all honesty, antivirus is not necessarily used to stop viruses anymore, but there are all kinds of criminals out there who want nothing more than to steal and cause mayhem by getting inside your PC. It sounds scary, but because much of our lives are now conducted online, the threat is as real as ever.Therefore, antivirus software, despite its limitations, has a place in business defensive strategies, but it’s not the absolute key. 

So is it still worth it?

So is antivirus software worth your time and money? In the world of cybersecurity, nothing is 100% foolproof, and an antivirus is no exception. Does it help? Absolutely. But there will always be newer, more advanced malware that can breach even the best of defenses.

The bottom line is no single security measure, including installing an antivirus, safeguards against every possible threat. The best you can do is to make yourself a hard target with smart online behavior, excellent staff training and the right antivirus solution. By investing in solid antivirus software, you will be much more secure than those who don’t.

Apprehensive About Antivirus?

Antivirus is good, but it can’t protect you alone. Think of your antivirus as only one aspect to your security rather the sole method of protection. Following general security recommendations will minimise your risk, but antivirus software is not foolproof. By installing a top-rated antivirus, being cautious about the websites you visit, not opening questionable attachments, and avoiding clicking on suspicious links can help you and your network avoid many threats. We can help you to maximise your cyber-security protection and get rid of the comlpexities around antivirus, why not get in touch for more info?

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