Traditional Antivirus – Problem or Solution?
Traditional Antivirus software is a class of program that is designed to prevent, detect and remediate malware infections on individual computing devices and IT systems. Broadly speaking, the primary intended function of traditional antivirus is to prevent attackers from compromising endpoints and servers. As cybersecurity remains at the forefront of today’s hot topics, the effectiveness of traditional antivirus comes into question. Traditional antivirus satisfies many regulatory, governance and compliance requirements but can handcuff organizations with hidden costs while providing little security value. Security breaches and ransomware continue to evolve daily while traditional antivirus remains constant. Organizations must choose more advanced technologies that provide superior security value and increase security effectiveness, without breaking the bank.
The most critical factor in determining the security value of a technology or product is its effectiveness. Signature-based scanning of files has been the cornerstone of antivirus’ ability to detect malicious content. As operating systems, networks and applications continue to evolve overtime, the effectiveness of signature-based scanning has diminished. For security to be truly effective, antivirus technology must deliver the following capabilities:
1. Performance of Intended Function
Traditional antivirus is meant to prevent attackers from compromising endpoints and servers. However, this is a function that antivirus can no longer perform with predictable success. Attackers rely on two vectors, both individually and in various combinations, to compromise endpoints – Malware and Exploits
- Malware is an often self-contained, malicious executable that is designed to perform nefarious activities on a system.
- Exploits are weaponized data files or content that is designed to leverage software flaws or bugs in legitimate applications to provide an attacker with remote code-execution capabilities.
Signature-based scanning and tradition antivirus technology is inadequate to prevent attackers from compromising endpoints and servers from both malware and exploits.
2. Inherent Persistence
Traditional antivirus system scans have always caused interference with and have slowed down competing business priorities. What is worse is that the user has made it a habit to skip these scheduled scans whenever they pop up. Lastly, attackers now have the ability to bypass the majority of traditional antivirus products on the market.
Signature-based antivirus has struggled to adapt to new applications, systems and platforms that cannot accommodate or are ill-suited for the deployment of a signatures database and signature-based scanning. Once a virtual system is instantiated, it must download the latest antivirus signatures before its antivirus can perform its intended security function, leaving the system exposed to attacks. The lack of flexibility and inability to adapt to the changing threat landscape have all but regulated signature-based antivirus to a reactive security tool whose time has long passed.
Traditional Antivirus Hidden Costs
Security technologies must balance the benefits they provide to an organization with the costs associated with their operations. The costs of operating an antivirus system extend beyond the staffing, operational, licensing and support costs to areas that may be difficult to quantify or unquestioned due to precedence.
- Operational Agility: Organizations that continue to rely on traditional antivirus will invariably encounter obstacles in deploying and securing new technologies that may offer significant business advantages.
- Opportunity Costs: Oftentimes, security staff is expected to support aging antivirus systems, in addition to combining security capabilities from various solutions that may take a long time to integrate and may offer lower security effectiveness.
- Unmitigated Risks despite Compliance: Regulatory compliance does not equal security. Traditional antivirus offers no meaningful security value in today’s computing environments, forcing security professionals to deploy other technologies and products to mitigate security risks, imposing additional costs on the organization.
- False Sense of Security: When deploying a traditional antivirus, users may wrongly assume that their systems are protected from attacks. A false sense of security can lead these same users to be less vigilant and to exercise less caution in avoiding potential cyber threats.
Security Requirements for Antivirus Replacements
Organizations need a security product that provides superior security value and the following capabilities:
- Focus on Prevention: Breach detection and incident response do offer security value, and should be secondary priorities compared to prevention. A focus on prevention is the only effective, scalable and sustainable way of reducing the frequency of cyber breaches.
- Prevention of Known and Unknown Malware: Effective prevention of both common and advanced malware necessitates the deployment of multiple analysis and prevention methods for maximum effectiveness.
- Prevention of Known and Zero-Day Exploits: A complete solution must prevent known and unknown exploits from subverting legitimate applications.
- Automatic Integration of Threat Intelligence: A replacement for traditional antivirus must natively integrate and leverage threat intelligence from global resources to automatically detect known malware and to quickly identify unknown malware, blocking both from infecting the organization’s systems.
- Ubiquitous Protection: A complete solution must prevent both malware and exploits from compromising a system regardless of its online or offline status, its connectivity to the organizational network or its physical location (on-premise of off).
Let KeyCloud replace legacy antivirus with multi-method prevention that deploys a unique combination of the most effective, purpose-built malware and exploit prevention methods. The two layers of this multi-method prevent include Multi-Method Malware Protection and Multi-Method Exploit Protection.
Multi-Method Malware Protection
Multi-method malware prevention maximizes the coverage against malware while simultaneously reducing the attack surface and increasing the protection accuracy. This approach combines several layers of protection that instantaneously prevent known and unknown malware from infecting a system:
- Static Analysis via Machine Learning – By examining hundreds of file’s characteristics in a fraction of a second, this method determines if it is likely to be malicious or benign without reliance on signatures, scanning or behavioral analysis.
- Inspection and Analysis – The cloud-based malware analysis environment rapidly detects unknown malware and transforms it to “known,” preventing harm to your system.
- Trusted Publisher Execution Restrictions – Identifies executable files that are among the “unknown good.” These files are published and digitally signed by trusted publishers and entities.
- Policy-Based Execution Restrictions – Easily define policies to restrict specific execution scenarios, thereby reducing the attack surface of any environment.
- Admin Override Policies – Allows organizations to define policies to control what is and is not allowed to run in any environment.
Multi-Method Exploit Protection
Multi-method exploit protection focuses on the core exploitation techniques used by all exploit-based attacks, rather than focusing on the millions of individual attacks and their underlying software vulnerabilities. Although there are many thousands of exploits, they all rely on a small set of core exploitation techniques that change infrequently. The multi-method prevention identifies and pre-emptively blocks the techniques the moment that they are attempted. The multi-method approach to exploit prevention involves several layers of protection including:
- Memory Corruption/Manipulation Prevention – This step prevents the exploit from manipulating the operating system’s normal memory management mechanisms for the application.
- Logic Flaw Prevention – This step recognizes and prevents the exploit from manipulating the operating system’s normal processes that are used to support and execute the target application opening the weaponized data file.
- Malicious Code Execution Prevention – This step recognizes the exploitation techniques that allow the attacker’s malicious code in and blocks them before they succeed.
In conclusion, traditional antivirus no longer offers meaningful security value because it is no longer an effective means to prevent security breaches. Organizations now have access to a superior technology that not only eliminates the need for traditional antivirus but surpasses it in terms of actual security value.
Contact KeyCloud today to learn more about what’s under the hood of our multi-method prevention security solution.