The critical difference between endpoint protection and traditional antivirus
This article will explore why traditional, legacy antivirus solutions are no longer effective and can't protect you from malware anymore. We'll also explain the difference between conventional antivirus solutions and a new breed of endpoint protection systems that can solve this problem.
Signature-based vs. Behavior-based Detection
Signature-based, legacy antivirus products are very well known. They've been around for well over 30 years. Think of Symantec, Norton, McAfee, and similar companies. Their products are very widely used and widely understood.
The way these legacy antivirus programs work is that they look at patterns, they look at hashes, and they look at signatures of known malicious files. So if one of those files is dropped on your computer, for example, by downloading it from the internet or copying it from a USB drive, the software checks the file for these known patterns and signatures to determine whether it's something that is known to be bad.
This used to be good protection against traditional types of malware. But bad actors and technology have advanced so much over the past 30 years that this approach no longer works.
Traditional antivirus is no longer capable of detecting modern malware
There are well over 1 million new pieces of malware created every day.
It's very easy to change a known piece of malware into an unknown piece of malware by adding some additional characters to the file, effectively changing the file's signature. Slightly more sophisticated modifications change the behavior of the malware just enough to make it appear like an entirely new piece of malware. Traditional antivirus programs will not detect this. By the time the antivirus vendors have updated their antivirus programs with the signatures of new variants, the damage is already done.
Overall, due to the sheer amount of new malware variants popping up daily, the traditional, pattern- and signature-based antivirus solutions don't scale and become unmanageable.
How Endpoint Protection with Behavioral Detection solves this problem
Rather than just using signatures to detect known malware, combining many different technologies that are all baked into one product and capable of detecting entirely new, never before seen malware is a better approach.
The most important aspect of this is having the ability to use behavioral modeling and artificial intelligence (machine learning) to then look at the actual behavior of what's running on your computer. As a result, the system can detect suspicious and malicious actions rather than rely on known signatures of one file.
For example, let's say you received an Excel file in your emails, and that file has some active components (macros). Some malicious actions are executed in the background when you open that file, like encrypting your files (Ransomware). An endpoint protection agent with behavioral detection capabilities understands what is going on. It can tell that a process on your computer has started encrypting your files and that this is probably something you don't want. It kills the malicious process before it can do more harm.
This method allows endpoint protection systems to detect more advanced attacks, including malware that is entirely unknown and would not have been seen by your legacy antivirus software.
The power of artificial intelligence and machine learning
These next-generation endpoint protection solutions work based on machine learning models and artificial intelligence. They are trained with massive amounts of data based on monitoring known malicious programs on thousands of computers and servers. From that, they can derive and learn behavioral patterns.
Lightweight agent software installed on your computer monitors the entire system constantly, decides whether things that happen are benign actions, suspicious or outright malicious, and acts accordingly.
Examples of endpoint protection solutions with behavioral detection
Quite a few vendors do things differently now and use modern, next-generation, AI-based behavioral analysis in their detection engines. What's interesting to note here is that they are mostly newer companies. Traditional antivirus vendors like McAfee, Symantec, Norton, etc., are seemingly left behind. They have such a massive investment in their old technology that it's hard for them to turn the ship around. And maybe they were just too late. New players with new technologies disrupted the market.
Some notable companies and products in this space are CrowdStrike, SentinelOne, VMware's Carbon Black product line, and Microsoft's Defender, to name but a few.
Your traditional, legacy antivirus program just doesn't cut it anymore. It can only detect already known malware - something that plays less and less of a role in today's threat landscape. Over a million new pieces of malware are seen in the wild every day, and that number has long surpassed the ability of legacy antivirus solutions to stay up to date.
The solution is to replace your legacy system with a modern, next-generation endpoint protection platform (EPP) based on behavioral detection and artificial intelligence. These solutions are far superior to outdated antivirus software.
If you want to learn more about Endpoint Protection Platforms and how to use them to protect your business from malware and other attacks, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. We have partnered with SentinelOne to give our customers one of the best platforms on the market today.