Anti-Virus & Anti-Malware. Both of these terms are familiar to all computer users by now. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on a mobile or desktop, Windows or Mac, these pieces of software has somehow been a fixture to our everyday computing.
But most people use these two terms interchangeably. Is there really a difference between one and the other? Are people justified to simply refer to them as if they were the same thing? Should I get just one or do I get both?
What is a Virus
Viruses are a specific type of malware (designed to replicate and spread), while malware is a broad term used to describe all sorts of unwanted or malicious code.
Viruses first came about in the 90s. They were designed to replicate themselves on host computers and destroy the data.
A virus can be Direct action type which remains hidden in computer memory or Resident type which installs itself on a computer system. A polymorphic virus is one of the most dangerous which changes its signature every time it replicates. Antivirus programs are capable of detecting only one variant so they get confused.
Security software developers chose the word “Antivirus” and sold the product commercially. As time passed, new types of infections came into play which were not viruses. Soon, cybercriminals realized that there was no fun in just damaging data.
At least not when there was the chance to make a profit. The masterminds behind computer viruses became more interested in making profits of their own than causing your own losses.
This was how malware began to emerge.
What is Malware
Malware can include viruses, spyware, adware, nagware, trojans, worms, and more. Malware is an overarching term which consists of all kind of malicious software. A virus is also a Malware, but a Malware is not always a virus.
The fact that viruses were only able to incur a loss to the user but no profit to its developer (unless he was hired) gave rise to a different kind of malware in cyberspace.
Malware can be used for things such as stealing credit card details, revealing passwords, and spreading spam, just to name a few. They are programmed to work for their developers (Cyber Criminals) to act in a way which would be financially beneficial.
Adware, Spyware, PUP, Botnet, Rootkits, Trojan, Dialers are all different types of malware.
Ransomware is the newest form of malware which is dominating cyberspace. It can encrypt data, lock the system access and demand that a ransom amount is paid in order for the computer to be unlocked. De-cryptors for Ransomware are currently being developed to unlock files for free. However, rapidly changing encryption algorithms are making it difficult to decrypt the malware.
Anti-virus vs Anti-Malware
It is a myth that Antivirus software can only target viruses.
With the introduction of new infections, Antivirus companies had to change themselves and offer something extra. Antivirus companies started providing protection against other malware too.
However, we must remember the old saying “Jack of all trades, Masters of none”. This applies to traditional antivirus programs competing in the cyber age in the name of ‘Total Security’.
Antivirus programs cannot detect every infection and threat out there as they are constantly evolving. They are good at catching malware which spread through traditional methods like USB and Email attachments and depends on threat signatures for detection. Threat signatures mean that only the known (signature) threats can be detected by most of the Antivirus programs.
Anti-Malware is designed to detect newer malware from spreading through zero-day exploit, malvertising or any sophisticated form of communication like social media or messaging.For protection against advanced malware and new dangerous threats, Anti-Malware is a must.
Antivirus or Antimalware? What to use?
The answer is to use both.
You should follow the Layered Security concept in order to achieve overall protection against cyber threats. This configuration is designed to mitigate potential weakness of one layer by another corresponding layer. Antivirus becomes the first layer of defense which will be responsible for classic threats. These are generally old but established viruses, worms, and trojans.
Anti-Malware becomes the second layer which then targets and detects the latest malware. It even has the capability of detecting unknown malware using Intrusion Detection and Behavioral Blocker techniques.
Is it okay to have two real-time protection programs running at same time?
Anti-Malware solutions are referred to as second opinion scanners. They are designed to run alongside Antivirus without creating any conflict.
Having antivirus and antimalware real-time protection enabled at the same time shouldn’t be a problem.