Why antivirus software cannot protect your computer….

Practically everyone relies on antivirus solutions to protect their systems against malware. This blog looks at just how reliable these solutions are against malware? In order to have some meaningful analysis, there’s a need to know the number of new malware per month and the percentage of antivirus efficiency.

Let’s start with establishing the number of malware per month. There are various numbers floating around the internet for this purpose, arbitrarily, let’s use the “Mcafee Labs Threats Report, Fourth Quarter 2013”. Quote from the referenced report:

“McAfee Labs records 200 new threats every minute—more than three every second.”

Let’s not worry about the number of malware not detected by McAfee Labs, just calculate the per month number from the quote:

200×60=12,000 (per hour)
12,000×24=288,000 (per day)
288,000×30=8,640,000 (per month)

That’s a huge number of malware that’s being churned out on the monthly basis as of end of 2013; the number of malware released on today’s date is probably greater. Antivirus, are you up to the task?

The efficiency of the antivirus is measured in the percentage of malware, that is detected, deleted, and/or quarantined. Generally, this percentage is between 95-99 percentile, meaning that it’ll detect most of the malware. Any of the solutions and/or testing sites claiming 100% detection rate for a given antivirus should be treated as bogus.
Let’s look at the different percentages, starting at 97%, and their impact to the number of malware that will not be detected, based on the calculated 8,640,000 new malware per month from the above:

av efficiency

Let’s not dwell on the fact that most malware routinely disables the antivirus solution at hand and/or just exempts itself from antivirus scanning. Nor should we be concerned that minor changes to a given malware would cause non-detection by antivirus solutions. Let’s just go with the best case scenario.

That would be 99.9% detection rate, that still let 288 malware slip through the antivirus protection. The sheer volume of new malware is pretty much the main culprit for the non-detection. Expecting the antivirus solution to provide 100% protection is beyond the capabilities of the software.

So, what can you do?

To start with, keep your antivirus and setup frequent automated update for the virus definition file. There’s nothing on the market that is recommended to replace antivirus solutions. But antivirus needs help…

Augment the antivirus solution with additional protection that can protect against malware, that is not detected by antivirus software. In another word, use layered security protection for your computer. The layer can be as simple as not running your computer with an administrator account. Doing so will prevent most malware to disable your antivirus software and allows it to perform its protective function. You’d be surprise to learn how many malware still relies on old malware routine, once the antivirus software is disabled.

You could also add Microsoft EMET and Winpatrol as additional layer of protection to your system. Even if you just use the default installation of this two free programs, you’ll be better off than most computer users, who just rely on antivirus to protect their systems.

And nowadays, that’s all you can ask for…

Privacy and N.S.A.’s bulk collection of data..

A federal judge on December 27 ruled that a National Security Agency (NSA) program that collects enormous troves of phone records is legal. The latest decision, from Judge William H. Pauley III in New York, could not have been more different from one issued on Dec. 16 by Judge Richard J. Leon in Washington, who ruled that the program was “almost Orwellian” and probably unconstitutional.

I leave it up to the legal system to make the final decision, but…

NSA is not directly collecting the data, that is left to private companies. These companies collect data on people, practically “on every move you make”, that made available to other companies for a fee. The collector can be your phone company, wired or wireless, internet service providers or search engines, pharmacies, or whatever you name, it’s all out there. And again, this data is for sale to improve corporation profitability and doing so, the data is no longer private. All NSA is doing is to acquire this data, either for free, or for a fee like any other corporations.

All of this data about you had created a new business, data brokers. Most of these business has little, or no regulatory compliance requirements. These brokers may specialize in certain activities of yours; however, they will all maintain your:

  1. Name
  2. Date of birth
  3. Place of birth
  4. Social Security #
  5. Current and past addresses
  6. Driver license #
  7. Passport
  8. Employment history
  9. Credit history
  10. Etc., etc., etc…

You all know, or should know, how search engines identify you and track all of your activities on the web. (There’s no reason to single out Google as the greatest threat to your privacy, but they do deserve a not so honorable mention.) The search engine companies sell this data to advertiser, who in return peddle their customers’ products to you. The advertisements are so sophisticated, that by the time you click on a link the advertisement, the advertisement is there. The response time for popping up advertisement is measured in milliseconds…

There’s no reason to list well known credit rating agencies, or data brokers. Here’s partial listing of specialized data brokers…

Auto and property insurance reports:
Insurance Information Exchange
Insurance Services Office (ISO) (A Plus Property Reports)

National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange

Medical Information Bureau
Milliman IntelliScrips*

*-How a data broker can obtain your prescription history in the world of HIPAA, HITECH, and other federal regulations is beyond me. Especially when the quoted purpose from their websites states:

“Milliman Underwriting Intelligence begins with our market leading prescription history solutions. Milliman IntelliScript delivers complete and current prescription histories that allow insurers to make instant underwriting decisions with confidence.”

If you still believe that “I have nothing to hide”, just remember next time, when your insurance rates are substantially increased, to send a thank you note to Milliman…