Antivirus Software – Is One Line of Defense Enough?

Teow-Hin NgairArticle

Many home and business users have a complacent approach to their security in the online world. They put much trust into existing standards that were built to increase safety when browsing the web. While these standards have had a positive impact on reducing day-to-day risks on the internet, malicious software is always evolving.

Most recently, news headlines have been flooded with reports about Ransomware like Cryptolocker. These programs can completely encrypt a user or businesses files, blocking access until a ransom payment is made. A lot of the time, these payments are made without any response from the hackers, leaving you out of pocket and without your vital data.

Built-In Solutions on the most prominent OSes – Windows, macOS

Windows

Microsoft has made strides in recent years to improve the security of its Windows operating system.

As standard, you will find a basic antivirus solution, called Windows Defender. This package has real-time scanning tools, a firewall and on-demand scanning of removable drives to prevent infection.

Windows Defender offers a basic level of protection for Windows users, but there are multiple significant flaws that could allow malicious entities to access your data.

On the 13th of August 2019, Simon Pope (Director of Incident Response at Microsoft) issued a warning to users about potential worm-able vulnerabilities in the software, urging users to update their systems as quickly as possible.

It certainly instils a sense of worry for Windows users, when urgent security announcements are made relating to the most widely used antivirus software on the planet.

macOS

Apple’s macOS has had a much easier time in terms of security than Windows.

As the operating system is much less widely used, this means fewer resources are directed at developing malicious software for the OS. Despite this, significant security breaches still occur from time to time.

One flaw discovered in February 2019 allowed malicious software to hijack the Gatekeeper mechanism used in macOS. Gatekeeper is similar to User Account Control (UAC) in Windows and prevents unsigned malicious code from running on the system.

On macOS X version 10.14.5 and below, these exploits allowed hackers to execute untrusted code, without the user ever knowing. As MacOS regards external and network locations as safe (USB, CD, Server Shares), any malicious code launched from these locations would automatically run with elevated privileges, allowing full access to the system. Apple failed to fix this issue within a 90-day grace period, so cybersecurity researcher Filippo Cavallarin made it public.

How can you stay safe in an increasingly dangerous online world?

After reading about these security breaches, you must be wondering what you can do to increase your level of protection online.

Antivirus Software Suites

Firstly, while antivirus software is a valuable tool, it also has an inherent flaw. Zero-day exploits can bypass the heuristic engine (malware detection algorithm) of most popular antivirus solutions. According to PandaLabs, 30%-50% of zero-day malware is entirely missed by traditional antivirus programs when first encountered. To make things worse, it can take up to eight hours for these AV solutions to reach a 90% detection rate!

To combat this, you need to take a layered approach to cybersecurity on your devices. An antivirus scanner should work alongside an anti-malware program and an anti-exploit program to maximize your protection online.

The SecureAPlus security suite uses this approach to protect your machine. Rather than using a single antivirus database, SecureAPlus leverages the data from multiple leading antivirus engines to maximize detection rates. Even better, this is all done in the cloud, meaning your PC won’t be slowed down in the process! For threats that have not yet been discovered, the SecureAge APEX Engine uses AI to analyze code before it runs, to protect you from malicious intent. These features are only typically found in enterprise versions of the Windows operating system, but SecureAPlus brings these to consumers in a free and lightweight package.

VPN Software

For those that compute on the move, a VPN is an essential piece of software to incorporate into your security regime.

Open Wi-Fi networks are commonplace in cafes, bars, and restaurants across the country, but their lack of encryption means that your data is plainly visible to anyone else on the same network. A VPN solves this problem by encrypting your data in a tunnel, protecting it from prying eyes. VPN’s can also used for bypassing geographical web restrictions on access to sites and will obfuscate your location to protect your anonymity online.

Application Whitelisting

Application Whitelisting is a relatively new concept in the consumer computing market, compared to the other methods we’ve discussed.

The basic premise is that, if a program cannot run, it cannot cause any harm. This software works by only permitting a select number of applications to run on a device. You can specify a single device, or multiple devices on a network to abide by these rules.

SecureAPlus has pioneered a consumer application whitelisting program that can protect you from the most severe infections, like CryptoLocker. A list of trusted programs is created when the suite is first installed. From here, any new installation on the system must be vetted by you before it can execute. While this may sound tedious at first, SecureAPlus makes it easy to add new programs into the whitelist. If you make a mistake, a click of a button is all it takes to revoke launch rights for a potentially unwanted program (PUP).

Summary

The online world is a dangerous place. Using a multi-layered approach to device security is the best way to stay safe online. It is best to group an antivirus, anti-malware, and anti-exploit scanner to offer the best protection.

Along with this, a VPN service can improve anonymity and the security of your data in transit on the web.

Finally, consider using new consumer hardware protection techniques like application whitelisting, to ensure that no programs can run without your explicit consent.

Find out more about SecureAPlus for Windows, including our consumer and enterprise antivirus and application whitelisting programs.