Endpoint security vs. antivirus software: Which does your small business need?
Eighty-six percent of small businesses do not have an effective means to mitigate cyber risks. For most, the only precaution in place is antivirus software, despite the fact that 43 percent of cyberattacks target small businesses.
According to Symantec, 35 percent of users have at least one unprotected device—and that figure is expected to increase as more devices are connected to the network with the rapid growth of the internet of things (IoT).
Choosing between endpoint security and antivirus software for protection depends on many factors: the size of your network, the presence of remote workers, business policies such as BYOD (bring your own device), the need for centralized security controls, and the security features you require.
Small businesses that make the wrong choice of security investment—endpoint security versus antivirus software—are leaving themselves open to multiple security risks or will end up wasting a good part of their security budget, or both.
This article will help you decide whether you need antivirus software or endpoint security software. We’ll cover:
Endpoint security vs. antivirus software
Endpoint protection software
Endpoint protection is an approach to detecting malicious network activity and protecting computer networks including servers, desktops, and mobile devices from intrusions and malware attacks.
Each device connected to the network (i.e., endpoint) is a vulnerability, acting as a potential entry point for security threats. The internet of things (IoT) is expected to add more endpoints and continuously expand your network perimeters with new devices logging in to your network from external locations.
Endpoint security solutions help you effectively protect your network and its endpoints, as they are centrally managed, authenticate logins made from all new endpoints, and support remote software deployment and updates.
This type of software is primarily intended for business or commercial use rather than for individuals or home computers. Endpoint protection has become especially relevant for businesses of all sizes because of practices such as bring your own device (BYOD) policies, connect-from-home policies, use of personal devices on the company network, and the IoT.
Endpoint protection solutions are a suite of cybersecurity applications made up of antivirus, firewalls, intrusion detection, and anti-malware tools.
Some of the key features of endpoint security platforms include:
• Endpoint detection and response: Capabilities include being able to detect new endpoint devices as well as discover, report, and prioritize vulnerabilities.
• Anti-malware and data protection: Core functionalities of endpoint protection software include anti-malware and anti-exploit based prevention. Additional functionalities may include firewall, data loss prevention (DLP), port and device control, and mobility management.
• Reports and alerts: Provides prioritized alerts and warnings about vulnerabilities as well as offers dashboards and reports that enhance the visibility of endpoint security.
• Incident investigation and remediation: Centralized and automated tools that provide automated incident response approaches and step-by-step workflows for incident investigation. Advanced features include blacklisting and sandboxing to contain the spread of malware.
• Third-party integrations: Integrate via open API systems with other security tools such as network monitoring, intrusion prevention, active directory, and SIEM (security information and event management).
Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are being built into endpoint security applications for advanced capabilities to monitor file behavior and detect new attack types.
Endpoint security software vendors that offer managed services to deploy and monitor software operations remotely would be the best option for small businesses like yours whose immediate aim is to prevent attacks at lower costs. Some vendors may also offer managed detection and response capabilities.
Antivirus software is designed to detect and remove malware; malware is the broad term used to describe all kinds of malicious or unwanted code.
Common types of malware include:
• Viruses: A piece of malicious code capable of copying or multiplying itself, thereby deleting data, stealing data, and corrupting or crashing the system.
• Trojans: Malware disguised as legitimate software, but it performs illicit activities such as stealing passwords, deleting data, etc. when a user runs it.
• Keyloggers: Spyware that records keystrokes made by a computer user in order to fraudulently access confidential data such as passwords, bank account details, etc.
• Ransomware: Locks down your system or displays threatening messages to force you to pay a ransom to the attacker to regain access.
• Worms: These harm host networks by self-replicating to overload web servers and consume large amounts of bandwidth.
Antivirus solutions are installed on individual devices such as desktops, laptops, and smartphones, as well as on servers. They run in the background and periodically scan device directories and files for malicious patterns indicating the presence of malware.
The software taps into its database of virus definitions and signatures to see if there are executable malicious codes within it. It blocks or quarantines files if it comes up with a match.
Since new malware is developed every day, antivirus software vendors constantly update their existing databases; it is these updates and more that pop up as notifications on your screen.
If you don’t keep your antivirus software up-to-date, it will continue to rely on old virus definitions and will fail to detect new viruses, making you more prone to attacks.
Antivirus software is available as a stand-alone solution or as one component of an endpoint protection platform.
There is a wide range of antivirus software available on the market. Software vendors offer different products for enterprises, small businesses, and individual use. The level of protection offered by antivirus solutions also differs depending on the plan you opt for.
The key features of antivirus software include:
• Real-time and manual scanning: Automatically scans the system at scheduled times and takes action against any threat or virus detected. Manual scans allow you to start scans to resolve threats at any point in time.
• Web protection: Helps to keep your online browsing sessions and downloads from the internet safe by blocking bad results or warning you when you are about to visit a malicious web page.
• Threat identification: Identifies various types of malware including viruses, Trojans, ransomware, spyware, worms, keyloggers, adware, and rootkits.
• File quarantine: Removes or isolates infected files depending upon the severity of the damage.
• Alerts and notifications: Notifies you about periodic scans and updates as well as sending alerts about infected files and potentially malicious software.
• Automatic updates: Provides remote updates about virus scan rules to keep the software up-to-date and capture new viruses and threats.
Check out the graphic below to get a quick summary of the differences between endpoint security and antivirus software:
Which tools are out there?
Endpoint protection platforms offer more holistic protection for networks and devices by incorporating features that help to filter web traffic, detect threats, remotely control and monitor devices, and integrate with other security solutions.
Antivirus software tools, on the other hand, are targeted tools that function to detect and remove malicious codes and applications. They help protect the system from malware—specifically viruses. Some antivirus tools also offer protection against worms, Trojans, and bots.
Small businesses can look at the following software options for endpoint protection and antivirus protection. Almost all, endpoint protection tools also offer some antivirus features, in addition to advanced admin capabilities.
Below, I go through some of the options out there for businesses of all types. See the methodology section at the bottom of this article for more insight into how the apps for each section were chosen.
If you’re looking for endpoint security…
Avast Business is an endpoint security solution offering anti-spam, firewall, antivirus, web shielding, email protection, and sandboxing capabilities.
Avast supports granular security management and offers a centralized dashboard to control security operations from a single point. The dashboard provides details of threats and allows you to schedule regular scans, manage software updates, deploy updates across multiple endpoints, and add lists of blocked websites.
Avast recommends its managed endpoint security solution that offers a centralized dashboard for business using five or more connected devices.
Dashboard feature in Avast showing the number of devices covered and details of last scan (Source)
AVG Business Edition
AVG Internet Security Business Edition aims to protect your network, endpoints, and email from ransomware, viruses, phishing, spyware, and more. It also supports remote management capabilities that allow you to install, configure, and update the security software across the network and multiple devices from a single location.
The solution uses AI and real-time outbreak detection capabilities to keep its antivirus capabilities updated. AVG Internet Security for businesses also offers firewall, anti-spyware, data encryption, file shredding, and email server security features.
The control panel in AVG that helps you remotely manage your security requirements such as firewall and identify protection (Source)
Imperva Incapsula offers a variety of security features including web application firewall, bot mitigation, website security, load balancing, and DDoS protection. Incapsula provides protection against threats such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and advanced persistent threats that lead to denial of service.
Incapsula’s dashboard feature provides a live view of website traffic and helps you create custom security policies. It also offers network optimization features to boost website speed, caching, and proxy capabilities. The tool also integrates with various SIEM solutions.
Threat report in Imperva Incapsula (Source)
Webroot SecureAnywhere Business Endpoint Protection Suite is a security platform that offers multivector protection against threats across networks, endpoint devices, email, web URLs, browsers, applications, and files.
The software supports online management of endpoints and provides hierarchy controls and visibility. It also allows you to manage scans, software deployments, and updates from a single location. Webroot uses machine learning to predict threats and keep its antivirus databases updated.
Webroot SecureAnywhere Business Endpoint Protection suite is recommended for businesses with five or more endpoints.
The centralized console in Webroot that helps you manage all endpoints from a single location (Source)
If you’re looking for antivirus software…
McAfee Security Solutions
McAfee offers comprehensive cybersecurity solutions to protect computers, endpoints, and networks from viruses, ransomware, and other security threats. McAfee’s antivirus solutions warn you of risky websites and files as well as offering identity theft protection, firewall, password manager, and file encryption features.
McAfee also offers an endpoint security solution with threat detection and centralized dashboards for Windows, Mac, and LINUX systems.
Various reports generated using McAfee security solutions (Source)
OmniShield by OmniNet is a security solution for small and midsize businesses offering anti-malware, website filtering, advanced threat protection, web protection, and activity monitoring features. The tool also offers data loss prevention, perimeter defense, and reporting features, as well as ransomware protection and unified threat management features.
Security settings feature in OmniShield that allow you to modify your protection levels
Symantec offers antivirus and security solutions both for businesses and individual users. Its Norton brand of antivirus solutions are designed to detect and block viruses, Trojans, spyware, adware, worms, and other types of malicious codes. It also offers identity theft protection tools.
Symantec also offers an endpoint security solution targeted at small businesses with features such as anti-malware, device encryption management, web protection, vulnerability management, and threat eradication.
Schedule scans and updates on Norton Antivirus, offered by Symantec
WebTitan is an antivirus tool that helps to detect and block viruses and other malware. The software also allows you to filter web content and identify online threats.
WebTitan offers features that make it possible to classify websites into different categories, whitelist/blacklist URLs, and create your own security policies. It helps you manage software deployments and updates on devices at multiple locations from a single portal.
WebTitan allows you to create internet policies for your business
More about endpoint security and antivirus software
Endpoint security and antivirus software share some similarities but are very different in the needs they help to meet.
• Antivirus is just one facet of endpoint protection platforms.
• Endpoint security solutions cover your entire network and protect against different types of security attacks, while antivirus software covers a single endpoint and only detects and blocks malicious files.
• Endpoint security solutions are more dynamic and detect endpoints automatically when new devices get added to your network while antivirus software need to be installed separately on each system.
Antivirus software will suffice if your business is small and does not have a network architecture in place. Endpoint security solutions must be used if you have several workstations or connected machines and find it difficult to identify and monitor new devices that connect to your network.