What would you think of a business owner or manager who installed a security system for the company’s facilities and hired several older, retired men to rotate duties as night watchmen, way back in 1990, and hasn’t made any changes to the company’s security arrangements since? Chances are you would laugh.
But are you, as the owner or manager of a small or midsize business essentially doing the same thing with your company’s antivirus protection program?
Too often, the answer to that question is a rather sheepish and stammering, “Well, yes… I mean, uh, no… uh, I don’t know… maybe.” It may be time to evaluate your security management plan.
Ordinary thieves always get smarter and adapt to old physical security measures so they can continue to ply their shameful trade. Just so, digital criminals – whether they’re show-off hackers, ticked-off employees or sophisticated digital thieves – continually adapt and learn new ways to exploit technological weaknesses that exist in the systems of companies of all sizes. Thus, if you’re relying heavily on antivirus software created a decade ago, even if it’s been updated regularly, your company is likely far more vulnerable than you realize.
Antivirus programs aren’t perfect
Antivirus programs themselves are now as vulnerable to attacks as the applications they’re supposed to be protecting, according to a leading data security researcher at COSEINC, a well-regarded security firm based in Singapore. Joxean Koret, presented some eye-opening research findings last month at the SysScan 360 security conference. Most notably, Koret said that over a year of study he was able to find dozens of vulnerabilities in 14 of the biggest-name antivirus programs used by companies of all sizes, and individuals.
The vulnerabilities he discovered included denial-of-service issues to programming flaws that open back doors that could allow attackers to obtain system privileges and then elevate those privileges to very highest level, whereupon they can pretty much inflict any amount of damage they want to do to your company’s system, its records, its finances, and its relationships with vendors, employees and, most alarmingly, customers. Koret also found weaknesses in a popular antivirus program that could allow hackers to implement arbitrary code, and even bugs in antivirus engines, which are the very core aspects of antivirus programs.
How antivirus programs are like submarines
To understand antivirus programs, which are designed to eliminate bad things from happening, can have bad things happen to them, think back to old World War II submarine films. Sub Captains always had a hard time aiming their torpedoes at small, fast ships, or at ships coming directly at them. But they scored big hits when targeting huge ships sailing perpendicular to the submarine. From the sub captain’s periscope perspective, those ships were easy to see, and their speed and course were easy to calculate because so much of the ship was visible above the waterline.
Similarly, antivirus programs are huge because they have to support a very long list of file formats, and because file format parsers typically are bug-ridden. Thus, over time, hackers have had plenty of opportunity to target antivirus programs and to probe them for weaknesses. And they’ve found them.
Seek help from security experts
So, what can you, as the owner or manager of a small or midsize business do to protect your systems from attacks that come through the antivirus systems on which you’ve been depending?
The first, knee-jerk reaction, would be to simply buy new antivirus protection. But pretty much all of them have known vulnerabilities. So your response needs to be more sophisticated and layered. And that means you’ll probably need to engage expert assistance and advisors for security management. And given what is likely your limited technology budget, you probably can’t afford to hire the expert you’ll need and keep them on staff long term.
Thus, your best and most economical course of action almost certainly would be to engage a top-notch team of technology and technology security consultants. They can perform a thorough evaluation of your technology security setup and devise solutions specific to your needs and budget limitations.