Anti-Spam, Anti-Virus – What Do I Need?

It’s kind of a trick question – having both anti-spam and anti-virus are equally important to your business network.

Anti-Spam services are absolutely necessary. We have clients whose spam filters capture 99.98% of the e-mail that comes through their firewall as spam, allowing the rest to go through to their staff. Imagine the chaos if all this junk actually got through!

Sometimes people can get a little annoyed when they have to check their spam filter for messages. I’ve had messages from people who regularly send me email, then one time it goes into my spam filter. These message can get ‘caught’ by the filters because of an attachment, wording that is suspect, or if the sender has been black-listed, as examples.

As inconvenient as it is to have a message get flagged as spam forcing you to retrieve it, the alternative could bring you to your knees.  Even known senders, people whose email you are expecting – even anticipating its arrival – can be compromised without their knowledge, putting your network at risk if you open their email.  We had a client whose bookkeeper was waiting for an invoice from a long-time vendor.  When it didn’t arrive, she looked in her spam folder and there it was.  She immediately opened it and unleashed the cryptolocker virus into their network; no kidding!

Anti-virus is also mission critical for all business and home computers, including Macs. Black Hat Hackers and virus/malware writers have been stepping up their game and have been launching very successful attacks on large and small organizations, as well as home computer users worldwide. It seems like every time we watch the news, we hear about another data breach.

No anti-virus is 100% perfect. It is a constant cat-and-mouse game between the virus writers and the anti-virus companies. When the virus writers come out with a new exploit unknown to anyone, it is called a ‘Zero Day Exploit.’ When this happens, it is open season until the anti-virus companies come up with a ‘fix’ called a Definition. The Definition will recognize the attack signature and stop it before it can infect your machine or server. For the anti-virus to do its job, be sure you’re on the latest version of the anti-virus software, and that you are receiving regular Definition file updates.

One of our favorite anti-virus options is Bit Defender which has a very high detection rate when compared to other anti-virus solutions. Bit Defender has been ranked among the top three anti-virus solutions in 2015 and 2014 by multiple independent organizations. Even more important than its ability to detect existing viruses and other threats is its ability to detect Zero-day malware/viruses that have never been seen before but have attributes that suggest malicious intent. The difference in detection methods between known and brand-new malware is that if the malware is known, Bit Defender has a signature in its file to watch for it. In order to detect Zero-day malware, Bit Defender inspects anything that looks suspiciously similar to a class of files known to be malicious. Bit Defender further checks for Zero-day malware by examining files to see if they behave in potentially malicious ways.

In summary, having anti-spam and anti-virus software and services is a critical first line of defense. You and your staff still have to be cautious since opening an email and clicking on a link or attachment that has a virus can unleash these attacks. I encourage you to use and maintain both of these services. They are as important to your computers as a key is to your home and car.  Thanks for taking a few minutes, and have a great day! — CMW