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How Antivirus Programs Fail to Stop New Malware Threats

A recent survey showed that respondents under the age of 35 had been the target of phishing scams.  This is a clear indication of how hackers who are trying to obtain personal financial information.   Back in 2002 there were an estimated 17 million known good files and 2 million bad ones.  By 2012, there were 40 million known good files and 80 million bad ones.  According to industry experts, conventional security measures such as anti-virus software can no longer protect users against malware and other threats. 

Malware threat growing as the main driver of this shift is cybercrime.

In the past, malware was often the work of malicious individuals or pranksters looking for recognition of their coding prowess.  But nowadays they are perpetrated almost entirely by organized crime.

Hackers look for ways to install malware on your computer for the purpose of stealing your passwords, credit card numbers and banking information, which they can sell to other criminals.  Cybercrime is estimated to be a $3 billion US industry.  One of the reasons malware is such a widespread problem is that it has become harder for consumers to detect.

There are a number of ways hackers can get into your computer, but nowadays, a lot of it is accomplished by “social engineering.” For example, you may get an email or even a phone call that appears to be from a bank or a tech support representative asking you to open an email attachment or to click through to an infected website.

The problem with anti-virus software is that it is reactive in nature which means that it responds to specific malware after it has been distributed.  Should a malware writer change a few lines of code, however, that anti-virus solution suddenly becomes obsolete.

It’s the sheer number of malware variations that makes it impossible for anti-virus software to effectively combat the problem.

While anti-virus software is not foolproof, it is a first line of defence.  It does not stop someone who is motivated but it does force them to put a little bit of effort in and it does mean you are not quite as easy of a target.

In recent years, hackers have are posing online as anti-virus companies with legitimate-looking websites and finding victims by ironically playing on their fear of malware. They offer “virus scans” that are actually malware.

Given these overwhelming threats, “whitelisting” can keep web surfers safe.  The principle is similar to verified accounts on Twitter, which was a response to the proliferation of bogus accounts. Rather than identifying all the fake accounts, Twitter’s verification process simply certifies the legitimate one.

Whitelisting has been around for more than a decade but only a few companies offer it right now.  The way it works is that anytime you surf the web, the whitelist prompt appears in your browser. If you go to a website that has been penetrated by hackers, the browser pops up a stern warning telling you not to proceed to the site.  Whitelisting would keep a list of good sites on your workstation and in the cloud.

We are unable to stop every attack but our actively managed toolset has enabled us to put policies into place that can prevent such attacks.  First line of defense such as corporate messaging spam and virus filter, firewall with active security and content filtering licences and managed anti-virus and malware protection.


365 iT SOLUTIONS is a leading IT consulting firm in Toronto. We provide industry leading Managed IT ServicesIT Support ServicesIT Outsourcing ServicesTech Support Services and Cloud Services.

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