According to the Cisco Annual Cybersecurity Report, malware attacks have been on the rise in 2018 and there is need to take the necessary measures to stay secure. One of which is installing antimalware and antivirus software. But judging from the kind of questions I see on the internet on a daily basis, I don’t think people really understand the difference between these two.
Well, many seem to have a working concept of what an antivirus is but when it comes to antimalware, that’s where the confusion sets in. Which is quite understandable since viruses have been the most feared security threat for the longest time. They first became popular in the 1990s but it was the release of the CIH Virus or otherwise known as the Chernobyl Virus in 1998 that really set the antivirus wagon rolling.
The virus managed to wipe off all data on the infected machines and also overwrote the BIOS chip rendering the machines unusable unless the motherboard was replaced. After this people adopted the use of antivirus software which led to a sharp decline in virus attacks.
So, why are we still talking about cyber threats 20 years later then? Because the attacks evolved. New forms of malware were created. Malware that antiviruses were unable to effectively stop. But before we dive into that I will explain the difference between a virus and a malware. In case it is not clear yet.
Difference Between a Virus and a Malware
Malware is the collective name used to refer to malicious software or intent. These include Worms, Trojans, Ransomware, Spyware, Adware and, you guessed it, Viruses. So essentially, the virus is a type of malware. It works by executing into a user’s machine unknown to the user then proceeds to replicate and infect other programs and files in the computer.
Malwares are much more easier to spread and infect than viruses due to the way they operate, these are a great source of revenue to the bad guys.
With this information, you should already have an idea why just having an antivirus alone on your machine does not guarantee you full protection against cyber-attacks.
The Evolution of Malware
But now back to the evolved cyber security threats. Viruses have become hard to spread so what does the attacker do? They come up with new types of malware. You may also hear them being referred to as zero-day or zero hour malware. These are new threats without a security patch.
- ZeroAcess Botnet – One good example is the ZeroAccess Botnet that was first discovered in 2013 after it had infected over 1.9million computers. The bot used advanced rootkit to remain hidden while it downloaded certain software into the infected computer. The attackers then proceeded to carry out click fraud by having the software conduct searches on the internet and click on the results. They also used the software to mine for cryptocurrencies on the user’s pc. Mining bitcoins on your PC significantly reduces its lifespan due to overheating and overworking the processor
- Cryptolocker Trojan – Another incident of malware that was able to remain undetected by the antiviruses is the Cryptolocker Trojan of 2013. This ransomware, considered as one of the most dangerous ransomware of all times, used military-grade encryption to lock users out of their system and stored the key in a remote server rendering it inaccessible. The creators then demanded payment via bitcoin which, as you know, is untraceable. This same encrypting ransomware was used again in 2017 in the WannaCry Ransomware that hit over 150 countries and over 100,000 organizations.
Recognise how the attackers have now moved from targeting regular people and are now targeting organisations?
Dealing with Malware Attacks
Ransomware detections have been more dominant in countries with higher numbers of internet-connected populations. The United States ranks highest with 18.2 percent of all ransomware attacks. Ransomware damage costs will rise to $11.5 billion in 2019 and a business/consumers will fall victim to a ransomware attack every 14 seconds at that time. (Cybersecurity Ventures).
Sadly, having an antivirus alone is not safe enough. You need the extra protection of an anti-malware. I will use my favourite anti-malware software, Malwarebytes, to better explain how anti-viruses and anti-malware differ in protection methodologies and how they complement each other in fighting malware threats.
Ask any cyber-security expert and they will probably tell you that Malwarebytes is the best anti-malware software right now. Or maybe am just a little biased because it saved me from being a victim when the ransomware wave hit in 2017. Yes, people who were using the premium version of Malwarebytes did not get hit. But I had been using the free version before and it proved to be more than effective.
Unlike the traditional antivirus software, Malwarebytes is able to flag and stop new threats that have not occurred in the past before they can turn into a disaster. May it be through infected websites, suspicious emails, malicious links, browser extensions and most recently potentially unwanted programs (PUP).
The PUP are actually quite dangerous since they disguise themselves as useful programs when in reality they mean to harm your system. The Malwarebytes scanner is able to recognise such programs and will always warn you before you can install them. However, in the end, it’s your decision whether or not to install the program.
Malwarebytes uses what is called anomaly detection technology to match the behaviour patterns of potential threats to existing threats. Which is why it is able to detect a malware even when there are no prior reported cases of similar malware. But that is just about it. When it comes to the older more established threats then an antivirus is your best bet.
Which goes on to confirm what I said earlier about needing both an anti-malware and an antivirus for full protection.
This was also echoed by Adam Kujawa, the head of malware intelligence at Malwarebytes when he was quoted saying that their speciality is protecting the user from new malware that are constantly evolving and which pose the biggest threat to the user. Protection against the older threat is thus left to the antivirus vendors who specialize in protecting the user against the older known malware.
- Efficient in detecting and preventing new and existing cases of malware
- Simple installation process
- Free version has impressive detection rate
- User-friendly interface
- Offers PC cleaning option
- Does not affect the computer speed
- Real-Time Detection (Paid Versions) can prevent the attack before it infects your system.
- Massive database regularly updated that blocks sites known for distributing malwares.
Malwarebytes offers a 60-day money-back guarantee for new subscriptions of its consumer (i.e. Malwarebytes for Home) Windows, Mac, and bundle premium products. T&C Apply (read more)
Aside from using an anti-malware and an antivirus we recommend that you regularly update your OS and software. Attackers sometimes take advantage of security vulnerabilities in your system to gain access.
For instance, the WannaCry ransomware targeted windows users that were yet to install a security patch released by the publisher to fix a security loophole.