When I was a kid and learning about computers, my mom gave me one piece of advice: an anti-virus is all you need. As a kid, I believed her. Who wouldn’t believe their mom?
Now I know she was wrong.
Maybe your mom told you the same thing. Maybe your dad. Maybe even your teacher decided to part such flawed wisdom to you. I’m here to say that no, an anti-virus is not enough to protect you from cybercriminals—not in 2005, and definitely not now in 2020.
Cyber-Threats That Anti-Viruses Can’t Protect you From
Let’s kick this off by discussing a few cyber-threats that an anti-virus fails at protecting you from. These can bypass any anti-virus program with ease.
1. Phishing Scams
Phishing scams rely on tricking the person behind the screen, not the device itself. Phishing scams take place through email, phone, or ads, and involve tricking and manipulating someone into giving out their personal information.
You’ve definitely seen or experienced a phishing scam. Your spam folder is probably filled with them, and that call from “Microsoft” telling you your device is infected falls under phishing.
2. Ransomware Attacks
WannaCry influenced a new generation of cybercriminals in the worst way possible. The 2017 ransomware attack caused millions of dollars in damages and showed aspiring cybercriminals that ransomware is key to making money and causing chaos.
Nowadays, it seems every cybercriminal is trying to take advantage of the current ransomware boom. Statistics show that ransomware attacks have—and will—increase as the year goes on. If nothing else, 2020 is the year of ransomware.
3. Machine Learning Poisoning
Machine learning helps companies, businesses, and institutions run efficiently. With it, they can collect large amounts of data that can help them run and improve. When someone comes by and messes with their machine learning, however, trouble ensues.
Machine learning poisoning involves ruining data collection. An example of machine learning poisoning is when a cybercriminal injects extra data into the “table” that the machine uses, messing the process up considerably.
Effective Security Tools To Protect Yourself With
Now that we’ve discussed the various threats that anti-virus software cannot in any way protect you from, it’s time to talk about a few solutions that will protect you. I recommend using all of these in tandem if possible.
image from pixabay.com
1. A Virtual Private Network
A virtual private network (VPN) actively encrypts any data your device sends out and transfers throughout the network, ensuring that no cybercriminal (or anyone else on the network) can see what you’re doing.
Downloading a VPN app can be done in a few simple steps, and using one allows you to improve your cybersecurity tenfold. But how?
A VPN routes your device’s data through its servers instead of your ISP’s, effectively hiding your IP address and encrypting your data. This makes sure that no one except you can see your online activity. This is especially useful on public networks.
2. An Email Scanner
Earlier, we discussed phishing scams and the ways scammers try to trick other people through the Internet. I stated that emails are a popular form of phishing, and that your spam folder is—in all likelihood—populated with attempted phishing scams.
While modern email algorithms do a good job filtering real emails from phishing emails, it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious. Deploying an email scanner will help you filter out that extra 1% of phishing emails that are squeezed by Gmail’s built-in scanner.
Email scanners focus on one thing and one thing only: security. These scanners vet every email that comes to the email address it’s linked to, scanning through it to make sure there’s no malware, viruses, or any dangerous software. Most scanners also look out for potential scam emails.
3. A Vulnerability Scanner
A vulnerability scanner scans your network for any potential vulnerabilities that a cybercriminal can exploit. While a vulnerability scanner won’t actively protect you like a VPN or email scanner, it’ll allow you to figure out what you can improve on security-wise, which is important in this day and age.
Vulnerability scanners comb through your network, looking for potential vulnerabilities such as: misconfigured settings, lack of security options, potential breach areas (such as entry points on devices), and more—things that most people couldn’t find on their own. This is why vulnerability scanners are vital.