One of the biggest topics to hit Cyber-Security news recently is the level of security, or lack-thereof, provided by Symantec and Norton antivirus and anti-malware software suites. This is very ironic and startling at the same time!
Thanks to the dedicated researchers over at Google’s Project Zero, MANY vulnerabilities have been found within these Symantec and Norton programs and according to them, “are as bad as it gets!” These vulnerabilities have the greatest impact on the default configurations for the software and to make things worse, these programs run with the highest possible privileges on your operating systems.
What does that mean? Simply put, it means that if any of these vulnerabilities are exploited within your antivirus (if you are running Norton or Symantec) they could alter or access any other service or application on your machine!
Currently there are no known instances where these vulnerabilities have been exploited but this doesn’t mean that they haven’t been and you can definitely expect them to be exploited in the future now that these vulnerabilities have been found and made public.
While I personally still recommend running a good antivirus or antimalware, like Bitdefender, security industry professionals are advising that you take more precautions when web surfing or checking email and DO NOT simply put faith in your security software. More and more attacks these days are relying on social engineering or phishing attacks that can circumvent antivirus programs. These types of attacks are best defeated by increasing your “situational awareness” on the web and being more vigilant when opening emails and their attachments.
So, if Antivirus isn’t going to protect you from everything what should you do?
First and foremost, back up everything that is important to you and do so frequently. While backing up to a cloud is good for pictures and videos and non-sensitive files you should definitely keeps backups on external devices as well. You will also want to make sure that whatever device you use for back-ups is not kept connected to your computer. In the event of a ransomware infection, any connected device, whether through network or USB, can be encrypted along with your local drive.
Secondly, keep everything updated! You should either enable automatic updates on your operating system or schedule regular updates during periods when your system is not in use. Be sure to update your browsers and email clients as well! These updates are used to fix or improve security vulnerabilities within the software.
Lastly, be more vigilant! Think before you click on any attachment or link. If you are unsure about it or do not know the sender then definitely double check or avoid them.
I am by no means recommending that you remove or do not use an antivirus or anti-malware program! This software still helps to defeat many threats and provides a solid layer of security. My only recommendation is that you make sure that your antivirus is one that is trusted, is frequently updated, and generally be more aware of the situation so that you aren’t solely relying on the antivirus to keep you safe.