Antivirus (AV) is one of the tech words that have ceased to mean what many used to know it. Just like mobile phones that are actually way more than just devices for making calls, antiviruse programs have gained new features and functions that make them better than ever. They do not only detect, prevent, and remove viruses; they also address a wide range of other malicious software problems including worms, spyware, adware, and ransomware.
Even better, antiviruses nowadays also provide solutions for non-malware concerns. You’d be surprised that the antivirus you have in your device can help defend your privacy, browse the internet safely through public WiFi, and guide you in making sound cybersecurity decisions.
Here’s a roundup of five of the features that were previously not included in antiviruses but are now increasingly becoming common among the leading AV providers.
Some antiviruses are seemingly gunning for the role of comprehensive security posture management, although not all solutions are not necessarily achieving it in full. They feature advanced vulnerability scanning, which is designed to evaluate the weaknesses in the security controls of a device. It is similar to what the vulnerability function in security management posture platforms do, except on a smaller scale and without examining the status and performance of other security controls.
This vulnerability scanning feature can detect if a device has skipped or not implemented critical security updates for its OS or apps. It can also examine Windows accounts for the strength of the password used. It can check for unencrypted passwords and other secrets stored in a device. Moreover, it can scan for vulnerable network settings such as the automatic connection to open hotspot networks and the lack of encryption on outgoing secure channel traffic.
Vulnerability scanning is important to increase security visibility. It helps detect security weaknesses that would have otherwise been left undetected if device users were to do the checking manually. Also, not everyone is well-versed with the process of checking for vulnerabilities, so it helps to have a built-in function that seeks out all the weaknesses without going through the tedious process of checking and testing controls individually.
Norton, Bitdefender, Avira, Panda, TotalAV, and a number of other antiviruses come with VPNs, which conveniently allow computer users to access the internet without the risk of getting tracked or exposing data that can be sniffed or siphoned by bad actors. Virtual Private Networks also make it possible to access certain websites or content that may have been blocked in some territories.
There is no need to launch separate apps for VPN. With it already integrated into a reliable multifunctional antivirus, all a user needs to do is to click on the antivirus icon on the system tray to open the app and activate the VPN function. The VPN may also be set to automatically run and continuously secure a device in conjunction with the launching of the antivirus.
Firewall or network threat prevention
Having the firewall, VPN, malware protection, and other security tools under a single interface creates a sense of enhanced intuitiveness. In a way, it makes it easier and more reassuring to use different defenses because of the familiar UI.
Most operating systems already have their native firewall applications, so an added firewall function in the antivirus may be deemed unnecessary or may create some form of conflict. However, antiviruse programs with their own firewalls are typically designed to avoid these issues by making device owners configure the functions or by giving the choice of which firewall to use.
Network threat prevention in antiviruses offers added protection. A test, which was undertaken as part of an antivirus review by PC Mag, showed the benefit of having the antivirus-integrated firewall. Antivirus firewalls can flag pages identified to be harmful or potential hosts for attacks with an accuracy rate of up to 74 percent.
Ransomware is one of the biggest threats affecting organizations at present, and it is set to reach new heights in 2022. It is also one of the biggest risks monitored under the MITRE ATT&CK framework. Ignoring it would be one of the worst mistakes any organization would be committing.
Many would likely believe—and understandably so—that ransomware is already one of the threats regularly addressed by antiviruses. However, not many AV solutions have the expertise to handle the growing sophistication and aggressiveness of ransomware attacks. Relying on threat signatures alone is no longer enough.
This is why modern antiviruses now supplement the usual scanning with behavioral analysis. The defensive mechanism still involves dependence on regularly updated cyber threat intelligence for identification, but it adds another layer of scrutiny by looking into the activities of a newly installed software in a device.
Sensitive information management
Many organizations rely on web browsers to manage their login credentials. It’s good that almost all of the top web browsers have already encrypted their username and password storage systems. However, it is still inadvisable to depend on web browsers for the secure management of passwords.
There’s the option to use a reputable third-party password manager that is not a browser, but it would be more convenient if the antivirus itself can also provide this function. Many antiviruses already provide this feature, storing not only passwords but also credit card details, social security numbers, and personal information. It also serves as a form filler just like RoboForm to more conveniently and securely enter sensitive details into forms while checking if a form is legitimate or a phishing scheme.
Online payment safety
Moreover, there are antiviruse programs that provide the ability to secure payments. With online transactions becoming more commonplace, it has become easier for bad actors to trick people into making payments to the wrong recipients or to enter their wallet details into a fake form.
The online payment safety feature works by making sure that users only undertake financial transactions through legitimate websites and prevents anyone from accessing web pages or links that can bait people into carelessly sharing their credit card details and other sensitive information.
Features that make sense
If the features add to better cybersecurity, there is no reason not to include them in antiviruses. The tech world has never been shy about giving or retaining names that no longer represent the core attributes of something. TVs nowadays are already similar to personal computers. Smartphones have already become cameras, gaming devices, and tools for doing business.
Antiviruse programs taking up the mantle of other cybersecurity tools are a welcome development. They help secure devices better without requiring several cyber defense applications in a device. It’s just important for users to become more acquainted with these new features and take advantage of them.