This week we have guest author, John Dayton bringing a timely article on malware. People ask me how they can get a virus on their computer when they’re running anti-virus software and John does a good job explaining….About the author: When John Dayton isn’t providing poignant articles about the tech industry, you can find him reviewing forensic engineering services or having a game of catch with his two young sons.
Studies have put the cost of various forms of cyber crime in excess of $114 billion each year. The MyDoom and SoBig viruses each did more than $37 billion in damages when they were actively wreaking their havoc. Far too many people have experienced the frustration and hassle of being infected by a virus, spyware or malware. We do what we can to protect ourselves with all manner of anti-virus protections, but here are 7 things you should know that virus protection companies won’t tell you.
1. Anti-Virus Scanning Software Can’t Predict New Viruses. It’s like the annual flu season. You can get a flu shot, but the vaccination is based on a prediction of what the predominant strain will be. If a new strain comes along, your vaccination is no good. Anti-virus software that is based on scanning files can’t protect you from the newest viruses that it doesn’t know about yet. The fix will come, but often too late for many. Make sure your virus protection package includes automatic updating of its “signature” files, the information it needs to update periodically for the latest virus information.
2. Anti-Virus Software Can’t Protect You from the Most Sophisticated Viruses. Hackers are ingenious at finding ways around even the best security protections. Their ability to develop ever more sophisticated attacks simply outstrips the ability of anti-virus protection to keep up. Be sure that whatever protection package you use is as comprehensive as possible in terms of features, including anti-spyware and anti-malware in addition to virus protection.
3. Anti-Virus Software Can’t Fix Operating System Vulnerabilities. If the point of entry for viruses and other cyber attacks is through a security vulnerability in your operating system, it doesn’t matter how often your virus protection fixes the symptoms because the root cause, a vulnerability in your operating system, has to be addressed. These attacks are called “exploits” and will keep happening until your operating system company comes out with a security update. Make sure you stay current with those as they are your only protection against these attacks.
4. Anti-Virus Software Can’t Stop Zero-Day Exploits. No matter how good your virus protection software is, it simply can’t defend you against “zero-day exploits,” which are special attacks formulated to spread super-quickly (in zero days). These are the viruses no one saw coming and cause widespread damage before security experts have even identified them as malicious.
5. Anti-Virus Software Can’t Stop Morphing Viruses. Most anti-virus software uses a database of “signature” files that match up with viruses. Besides being unable to detect brand new viruses with no signature in the database, hackers can also write viruses that morph or change as they spread, meaning that the signature changes and ends up being treated like a new virus even though it’s just a slight variation. With no signature in the database, the virus escapes detection and does its damage.
6. Anti-Virus Software is Relatively Easy to Disable. This is another case of the hackers being one step ahead of the security companies. The anti-virus software itself is vulnerable and becomes the object of attack, such that many viruses are now written to first disable the protection software before running themselves and doing their damage.
7. Your Sense of Security May be False. The biggest mistake users make is to think that after installing anti-virus software they will be secure and don’t have to worry. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security! Free anti-virus software is very likely not robust enough to provide adequate protection. Even more sophisticated (and costlier) packages vary widely in quality. Be sure to compare features and choose the best. And it’s important to stay faithful and consistent with running regular scans of your computer and making sure that you check for updates on a daily or weekly basis.
Anti-virus software protection remains an essential feature of modern-day computing, but consumers need to be aware that all such protections, while necessary, are neither perfect nor sufficient. Users need to remain vigilant about suspicious messages and files that come their way, keep their operating systems up to date in terms of security patches and choose the most robust anti-virus protection software that stays up to date with the latest virus information.