Antivirus presents a vital wall of defence against cybercrime and your business. Without it, your devices could be infected with malware within minutes. That being said, as we touched on in last week’s blog post, a host of new, exceedingly complex and intelligent threats is challenging established cybersecurity solutions like nothing before.
With this in mind, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that your antivirus alone isn’t enough to protect your business from advanced threats. That’s why today, we’ll take a comparative look at antivirus and endpoint security solutions. This way, you’ll be able to make an informed decision when it comes to purchasing cybersecurity products for your business. Without further ado, here’s what you need to know about antivirus and endpoint security.
How antivirus works
A traditional antivirus product is installed on individual devices and will periodically scan your computer, comparing files or directories against a list of known malware. It recognises malicious files based on a “signature” the specific threat carries. It might also use heuristic methods to detect suspicious patterns of behaviour or file structures even if a threat is previously unknown.
An antivirus programme will scan your computer at scheduled intervals for risks. In addition, you can run a scan on your computer or a specific file, CD or flash drive at any point. It’ll remove any malicious code it finds and gives you an overview of the health of your device.
With over 60,000 new pieces of malware created daily, antivirus providers have to constantly update their list of offenders to offer comprehensive protection. This means your antivirus is only as strong as its latest update. If you don’t download uploads as soon as they become available, your device is more likely to be infected.
Challenges to legacy antivirus
As we talked about in last week’s article, with the rise of new threats like fileless attacks and zero-day exploits, antivirus alone isn’t enough to protect your business. In fact, traditional antivirus catches only about half of malicious threats. As an antivirus programme is only as strong as its latest update, it relies on users vigilantly updating their software. This becomes more problematic the more devices are connected to your business network as forgetting to install the latest updates on your devices is very common.
Recently, a new breed of antivirus solutions has emerged to address many of the issues stated above. Known as next-generation antivirus, these products use behavioural analysis and machine learning to better recognise previously unknown threats. However, even next-generation solutions like this aren’t able to fully account for human ingenuity as they’re looking for specific behaviours rather than trying to recognise new patterns. Additionally, these products don’t offer the comprehensive set of tools that endpoint protection solutions do.
It’s also worth remembering that whether you use a legacy or next-generation antivirus solution, it won’t be able to protect your business data if your endpoint device itself falls into the wrong hands. If one of your team members loses their work laptop or their personal phone with access to confidential information gets stolen, your antivirus can’t do anything to protect your files. That’s why you need a tool offering encryption or remote device wiping to better protect your data.
What is endpoint protection?
Simply put, the difference between antivirus and endpoint protection is that while the former secures individual endpoints like laptops, phones and tablets, an endpoint security solution protects your business network as a whole.
Instead of being installed on specific computers, an endpoint protection solution will be stored either in the cloud or on a central server. In addition, endpoint protection products have agents installed on individual endpoints to report back to the central server. This way, you’re remotely protecting all devices with access to your business network. This includes things like laptops and phones as well as more unexpected things like printers connected to the internet of things (IoT).
Antivirus is one aspect of endpoint protection but in addition to this, endpoint security products contain tools like a firewall, whitelisting capabilities, patching, device control, data loss prevention and more. With the help of artificial intelligence, endpoint security solutions can detect zero-day exploits using previously unknown malware and attack types, offering more comprehensive protection than antivirus alone can.
Additionally, the fact that endpoint security products offer remote protection makes them scalable and well-suited for modern workplaces. A product like this will offer you the right amount of support as your team grows.
As endpoint security products are managed remotely, they often allow you to wipe devices remotely. This is a hugely useful feature if one of your business’ endpoints gets lost or stolen. It also means the endpoint protection agents installed on individual endpoints can be updated remotely for the best level of protection possible.
Do I need antivirus, endpoint protection or both?
As we already mentioned, having some form of antivirus protection is vital for protecting your devices. That being said, whether you need a straightforward antivirus product for your business is a tad more complex a question seeing as endpoint protection products often have antivirus built in.
In an ideal world, all companies would have access to top of the line endpoint protection with robust antivirus software either built into their endpoint security solution or purchased separately. However, this is not the reality for most small businesses. Windows 10 does come with built-in antivirus protection called Windows Defender, though relying on this alone could be problematic for some organisations – read more about this here. That being said, this protection, combined with a comprehensive endpoint protection solution offers good protection for most small business.
We don’t recommend relying on antivirus alone for businesses for many reasons. While antivirus can be fairly effective in protecting your home network, it fails to offer comprehensive coverage for complex business networks.
That being said, for sole traders or very small businesses of just a couple of people, it might be enough. If this is you, you’ll need to be vigilant about updating your software. If you don’t need advanced features like remote access, network filtering or whitelisting, an antivirus programme could be enough for you.
If you choose to go without an endpoint security solution, you should make sure you have good level of cybersecurity awareness. Additionally, a firewall and an encryption tool can provide another level of protection against data leaks. If you think endpoint protection is the right option for your business, come back for our next blog post to read more about our recommended product for this, SentinelOne.