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What Is Next-Gen Antivirus?

What is next-gen antivirus? (definition):

Next-gen antivirus uses a combination of modern technology including machine learning and artificial intelligence to more effectively identify and remove threats.

This is achieved by taking an approach that focuses on behavior—NGAV uses algorithms which examine processes, data, application use, network activity, and end-user behavior to understand atypical activity which can then be assessed.

This differs from traditional antivirus in that with traditional AV, programmers typically identify an attack after it’s hit, before then patching it and rolling out the patch to users via an update through their platform.

The key difference is that next-gen antivirus is proactive while traditional antivirus is reactive.

Related Infographic: Next-Gen Antivirus vs. Traditional Antivirus

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Next-Gen Antivirus Update: Pandemic cyberattacks

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a sharp rise in the number and severity of cyberattacks from criminals looking to take advantage of people’s fears and anxieties regarding the pandemic.

These are consistently being perpetrated via the use of phishing, a technique that involves tricking unsuspecting users into handing over sensitive information, such as their Social Security, bank information, or work login.

McAfee’s November 2020 security report indicates an increase in virtually every single attack vector in 2020, compared to 2019. Malware is the most common form of attack, accounting for 35% of all attacks.

To read more about how criminals are fooling users, take a look at our blog post about how hackers are using Microsoft Sway to create convincing landing pages that would catch out even the most astute of us.

Attacks like these are unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg. It’s crucial that SMBs in particular remain vigilant to the dangers of cyberattacks and take every measure to ensure they don’t become a victim, including using next-gen antivirus.

Related Post: Coronavirus Scams: Q&A With Impact’s Director of MIT Security Services

Next-Gen Antivirus Key Takeaways

What you need to know about next-gen antivirus:

  • The majority of SMBs lack the ability to defend themselves
  • Traditional and legacy antivirus doesn’t utilize modern tech to fight today’s threats
  • Next-gen antivirus uses technology like machine learning to adapt to evolving cyberattacks

Why Is Next-Gen Antivirus Important Today?

Next-gen antivirus has never been more necessary.

Malware has become more sophisticated in recent years as a constant battle rages on between hackers and IT security professionals. This has become even more pronounced in in recent years, and likely to continue if current trends remain the same as looks likely.

In recent years, traditional vectors that consumers and businesses have become wary of have been usurped by ever-more popular attack vectors, primarily vectors like ransomware and phishing, which have exploded in popularity as top choices for cyber criminals.

Staying ahead of these cybercriminals has been a challenge, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses that are targeted in larger numbers than ever, but are likely to lack a clear strategy for dealing with cybercrime. Clearly, the traditional set-it-and-forget-it antivirus approach is not suited for the future of cybersecurity.

Enter next-gen antivirus. This is the latest step in the ongoing battle against rapidly advancing malware and strategies used by hackers to attack users around the world.

But what is next-gen antivirus other than yet another buzzword in business technology?

SMBs not prepared for cyberattacks in 2020 | What is next-gen antivirus?

Meeting New Demands

Next-gen antivirus uses advanced technology to provide a more comprehensive and proactive approach to malware protection.

With the increasing number of connected devices in every business, home, and pocket, there is a need to have antivirus protection on every device.

There are an estimated 31 billion connected IoT devices in 2020, up from 15 billion in 2015. By 2025, that is expected to exceed 75 billion.

But just installing regular antivirus software isn’t enough to provide the protection needed.

With technologies like machine learning, cloud scanning, and data analysis; next-gen antivirus takes the traditional antivirus experience and makes it fit to take on modern threats.

Software has become more automated with automatic remediation and a much more user-friendly experience for IT experts to monitor networks.

Instead of waiting for IT professionals to tackle a problem, next-gen antivirus programs are constantly learning, improving, and automatically providing solutions to evolving security threats.

Next-Gen Antivirus vs Traditional Antivirus

Traditional

Most people are familiar with traditional antivirus software.

Plenty of people use this software in their own personal lives or in their business operations.

Traditional antivirus software is installed but often requires individual user direction in order to take action and be effective.

Perhaps the most succinct way to explain the difference is that traditional antivirus is reactive while next-gen antivirus is proactive.

68% of business leaders feel their cybersecurity risks are increasing

With traditional antivirus software, a user must initiate or schedule a scan of a device which can prove to be a time-consuming task.

Threats can only be discovered if the antivirus software is programmed to detect the infection and remediation must also be initiated by the user.

This isn’t necessarily bad, but it can prove to be an additional layer of challenge for users, especially as businesses introduce more endpoints into their environments.

Traditional antivirus also has the disadvantage of being unable to detect modern attack methods, such as:

  • Memory-based attacks
  • Remote logins
  • PowerShell scripting language
  • Macro-based attacks

Because these types of attacks don’t introduce files to a system, they go undetected by traditional antivirus software that look for file signatures.

In other words, traditional, legacy-style antivirus solutions are often lacking in the necessary capabilities to fend off modern security threats to SMBs.

Next-Gen

The volume of endpoints that exist within SMBs today is drastically higher than it was even just a few years ago—largely thanks to the Internet of Things and the implementation of BYOD policies.

A traditional antivirus software simply can’t keep up and provide the protection needed for businesses needing security from modern threats.

A next-gen solution will not just look for file signatures, but also detect attacks by scanning events, processes, and connections to establish whether there’s an inconsistency in your network.

This makes it a lot harder for modern attack vectors to bypass your cybersecurity protections and much more difficult for attackers to gain access and snoop around your network.

Here are just a few examples of next-gen antivirus characteristics:

  • Machine learning: Files are analyzed before use using an automated bot which can discover any malicious elements—all without any interruption to the user.
  • Behavior analysis: Computer processes can be monitored in real-time and detect any abnormal behavior, terminating malicious processes.
  • Threat intelligence: When a device encounters a threat, every other device under network will be updated to counter the danger without any need for manual input.

Components of next-gen antivirus | What is next-gen antivirus?

Why Do I Need Next-Gen Antivirus?

The landscape of business is changing and so should your antivirus solutions. Hackers have identified small- and medium-sized businesses as prime targets for attacks.

This is as a consequence of many decision makers laboring under the assumption that cybercriminals only go after large corporations—this couldn’t be further from the truth, and in fact those most at risk are SMBs who have neglected to reinforce their security capabilities.

It has been estimated that 60% of small businesses are unable to withstand significant data breaches. The costs, both monetarily and due to reputational damage, are insurmountable in many cases.

Security for businesses is not the same as it was even just a few years ago.

Dangers of the proliferation of devices

Instead of having a few devices with connections to the businesses’ important data, there could be hundreds of devices in use between laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other connected devices.

That’s a lot of potential points of attack for hackers and, worst of all, many traditional antivirus solutions may not identify a breach until well after it has occurred.

Fixing a problem after it has arisen is not an option for tackling cybersecurity issues; by the time you’ve been breached it’s too late.

Instead, businesses need proactive solutions that can grow and change as their needs change. This is the ultimate benefit of next-gen antivirus.

Small- and medium-sized businesses can offload the stress and responsibility of managing antivirus software updates, scans, and management to a next-gen solution that is designed to do all of the heavy lifting itself using advanced technology.

Businesses Need Tools Like NGAV But Struggle With Costs

Organizations today are more prone to cyberattacks than they’ve ever been, and as we mentioned earlier, many businesses lack any kind of strategy for their cybersecurity, despite the fact they’re more vulnerable than ever.

Why is this?

There are a variety of reasons, one of which is simply the cost of putting together and maintaining a technology stack and team for security.

If a business were to partner with Impact for their cybersecurity, they’d receive a team consisting of:

  • Cybersecurity Analyst (CSA)
    • Execute assessment tasks and curate/analyze resulting data
    • Perform daily monitoring tasks for deployed cybersecurity solutions
  • Cybersecurity Engineer (CSE)
    • Responsible for final assessment solution implementation
  • Cybersecurity Developer (CSD)
    • Develop and maintain custom managed IT security (MITSec) assessment and pricing tools
    • Work with the organization to improve and automate the MITSec process
  • Compliance Manager
    • Develop solutions and strategies to incorporate compliance into MITSec
    • Define team members and services to address client compliance concerns
  • vCISO
    • Acts as the point-of-contact for the client
    • Responsible for developing a tailored strategy for the client and ensuring overall satisfaction

Now consider how much it would cost to hire each one of these professionals in-house and then further consider the big skills shortage in the cybersecurity job market, and we have a situation where cybersecurity becomes extremely expensive to operate in-house.

Related Post: How the Cybersecurity Skills Shortage Affects Your Business

Investing in tools like next-gen antivirus is key for business security today, and being able to have professionals who know how to effectively operate these tools is equally important.

This is one of the many reasons organizations are more frequently partnering with MSSPs for their cybersecurity needs.

Looking Forward

We’ve talked in this blog post about what next-gen antivirus is, why businesses need it, and why it will be important for them to invest in tools like NGAV going forward.

Cybercriminals get more sophisticated every year and become less discriminate in whom they target—43% of cyberattacks target small businesses.

In other words, no company is too small to fall victim to attack.

This puts the onus on small businesses to ensure they are well-prepared for a potential attack, and this can be achieved by investing in modern tools like next-gen antivirus.

While investment is great, it cannot alone be relied on, and companies should be conscious that maintaining expertise is just as important and key to a successful cybersecurity strategy.

The Next-Gen Antivirus Wrap Up

Is next-gen antivirus the wave of the future? All signs seem to point to yes thanks to some essential features:

  • Machine learning capabilities allow antivirus to be proactive rather than reactive
  • Changing business needs require antivirus solutions that can be adaptable and flexible
  • New technologies like cloud services require modern antivirus solutions

In light of the events of the last year, many organizations have found themselves playing catchup with their cybersecurity, trying to implement makeshift solutions to make up lost ground while their workforces are working remotely for the immediate future.

To find out more about how you can ensure your business’ cybersecurity is in good shape for now and for the future, download our eBook, “What Makes a Good Cybersecurity Defense for a Modern SMB?”.