Why antivirus is antiquated

In the days of CD-ROMs and dial-up modems, antivirus software was pretty much your only protection against malware.  However, changes in how we connect online (especially mobile networking) have rendered antivirus protection ineffective against most malware striking today.  If you’re out in the world using your smartphone or laptop, antivirus protection sits at the device level, scanning against computer viruses, worms, trojans and other malicious software. It’s worth noting that most device infections today spread through connectivity, so antivirus as a sole method of security is a partial strategy at best—it really only does one thing.

Antivirus software requires opening a file on your device in order to work; then antivirus software scans files in the device memory for known viral signatures.  But in 2018, ENISA’s Threat Landscape Report finds fileless attacks were used in 77% of successful compromises (largely because people are still overly reliant on out-of-date antiviral patterns that scan at the device level).

Antivirus is also less effective against malware because it doesn’t evolve quickly enough to protect against new malware signatures.  Like the nastiest of human viruses, most malware adapts to its ecosystem and changes so it can continue to spread.  Contemporary malware is no different; a 2019 threat report from Webroot observed that 93% of all detected malware was polymorphic, meaning it shape-shifts to evade the known malware fingerprints companies like Norton and MacAfee are chasing.  Polymorphic code makes a change to a single occurrence of malware (through its name, encryption keys, signatures, hashes, order-of-execution, or function instructions) to spread as much as possible without being detected.  It becomes harder to protect because its code doesn’t exactly match the known malware.  It’s like a criminal getting plastic surgery to avoid being recognized.

The advantage of a well-built VPN with security comes in here: it has superior malware pattern-matching because its security product better find newly-morphing malware (and quickly enough) to prevent device infection. Rubica’s app has a built-in VPN using a combination of machine learning and human-initiated threat hunting from our to make our VPN smarter against more known malware signatures.  The combined power of experts and machines scanning the landscape finds what antivirus or software alone cannot.  It’s worth noting that most VPN providers don’t have a SOC or an ISO-27001-certified security stack, so a robust security team makes the VPN much better at protecting customers from malware.

VPN technology also provides a layer of anonymity that antivirus fails to offer entirely.  By shielding you from your internet service provider (and advertisers), your identity and your traffic are kept invisible—especially useful if you happen to live in a place where certain tools (like Instagram or WhatsApp) are banned.  In those cases, a VPN makes it look like your traffic is coming from another country where such the apps or websites aren’t blocked.  Be sure to check your provider’s policies and terms carefully to make sure your VPN provider doesn’t sell the data it’s claiming to protect.

Lastly, a good VPN gives protection across all of your devices.  Most antivirus has partial or no protection for mobile users, either, so choose a security solution that follows you across all of your digital doorways. Have you found an effective mobile antivirus product for iPhone, for example?  With a VPN app that runs on all of your devices, you get cross-device and cross-platform protection.  It’s no good if your laptop has a VPN but your iPhone has malware.  Plus, the effect of “herd immunity” means a good VPN with security quickly shields all customers from the latest threats our experts and machines are finding each day.