What is the difference between antivirus and anti-malware software?

Antivirus and anti-malware software is the first port of call for any SME’s cybersecurity strategy. It is probably the first cybersecurity software that you ever heard about and it is pretty unique to meet anyone who does not use any in the past.

But are you aware of what they really protect you from? Or the difference between an anti-malware and antivirus? And do you really require them both?

Malware vs viruses

Before discussing the pros and cons of the two types of software, we require to mention the difference between malware and viruses. If you are anything like the majority of the population, you would think that the two things are the same. Is not a ‘virus’ just a slightly outdated way to say ‘malware’?

In a way, that is fairly close. But, this is the world of cybersecurity so everything is always more complicated than it first appears.

The term ‘virus’ describes a bit of malicious code that can replicate itself repeatedly – similar to a biological virus. This code is designed to cause damage to your device, whether by corrupting your system or irreversibly destroying data. Viruses are usually considered ‘legacy’ threats that have been around for a long time but are rarely used by today’s cybercriminals.

Conversely ‘malware’, is an umbrella term that refers to many different types of threats. These can vary from spyware to ransomware and even some newer viruses (confusing, I know). The key variable is ‘novelty’. The threats that are under the term malware are newer, constantly evolving, and very much in use among today’s cybercriminals.

It is for this reason that antivirus software providers have been forced to improve their game and protect their customers from more than traditional viruses. 

What are the differences between anti-malware and antivirus software?

Now that we know the differences between malware and viruses, let us negotiate the software. 

As you might have thought, antivirus usually deals with the more dated, more established cyber threats. To illustrate this, think of all the things we were warned of in the noughties – endless error pop-ups, worm viruses and trojan horses. These threats typically enter your network through tried and tested routes such as email attachments or even USBs with hidden malicious software. 

These cyber nasties are generally very predictable and straightforward to detect. However, they are still capable of doing plenty of damage if left on a machine. 

On the opposing hand, anti-malware tends to concentrate on defending against the most recent threats. An anti-malware program will protect your organization against spyware, ransomware, sophisticated phishing attacks and zero-day attacks.  Anti-malware software will usually update its rules faster (daily) than an antivirus, making it the simplest protection against any new threats you could possibly bump into while using the net. 

Which should you choose? 

At this time, you might possibly be wondering why you require an antivirus if anti-malware can protect your devices against the most recent threats? 

Although this can be a legitimate question, it is a fairly risky way to think about cybersecurity. Sure, most of the threats covered by an antivirus may well be dated and barely employed by cybercriminals. However, that doesn’t mean they do not exist anymore or that they can’t still cause you a significant cybersecurity problem.

Doing without antivirus software may be a bit like a state deciding to focus exclusively on protection from nuclear threats while neglecting the potential for invasion by land air and sea. It is a flawed approach that leaves your business vulnerable to threats that should not pose too much of a problem these days. 

Instead, it is preferable to take a layered approach to cybersecurity. By this, we mean installing antivirus and anti-malware software to protect your organization against threats both new and old. 

Or, in basic terms, it’s not a question of either/or. An effective security strategy includes tools, training and measures to combat any of the latest threats as well as those from yesteryear. To find out more, please contact us to help you and your data be as secure as possible. If you would like to take your cybersecurity to the next level why not get your company cyber essentials certified.

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