Evolution of anti-virus is forcing security beyond the gateway

November 2007 Information Security

Anti-virus is no longer simply anti-virus. This hugely influential market has changed significantly, driven by efforts of IT security solution providers to measure up to sophistication in digital threats and the continued impact of mobile applications and devices.

Customers are urged to view anti-virus as a specialised service and no longer a commodity. Experienced professional service providers should be involved in anti-virus installation and should be consulted to offer the best advice in terms of core business/user requirements, infrastructure set-up and policy evaluation.

In essence, this anti-virus metamorphosis has provided a catalyst for a more proactive rather than reactive approach to IT security. The market, generally, is taking cognisance of the fact that IT security at the gateway of a system alone is simply not enough.

Today's threats to systems and networks are able to by-pass intrusion detection and firewalls, and it is now mandatory for users to focus on end-point compliance.

The reality of modern information and communication technology infrastructure is that security must be spread throughout the entire system, including at desktop and server level.

It is interesting to note that unpatched machines represent the weakest link in the security chain, with loopholes and vulnerabilities being targeted on a daily basis.

But it is not the ongoing warfare between attackers and system owners alone that justifies the need for end-point compliance. The fact that a large percentage of threats and attacks originate from within a business or organisation is aggravated by the advent of mobility and wireless connectivity.

Mobile devices, especially personal storage products like USB flash drives or memory sticks, are now considered the most significant and established IT security threat today.

Like most new technology, the original purpose behind mobile gadgets and applications was to increase productivity levels and make technology more accessible and affordable. All noble intentions but, like many other instances in the history of innovation and technology, the mechanisms fall victim to abuse.

These devices are built with more storage capacity than ever before. Practically, people now have the means to walk in to a company, business or organisation and download huge volumes of data at random.

Realistically there is not much that can be done to completely eradicate this problem. However, the deployment of end-point compliance, based extensively on the policy framework in place, certainly makes a significant difference.

It compels us to reflect on the degree of control that we think we have and weigh this up against both known and unknown risks.

In summary, the traditional anti-virus investment was initiated for the most part, based on a reactive approach to dealing with threats. The main idea was that as long as firewalls and anti-virus were installed at the gateway, there was little overall risk. The situation today is very different and we all have to be mindful of the need to adapt.

For more information contact Clint Carrick, +27 (0)11 807 9560, [email protected], www.carrick.co.za

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