We ask key figures about the current security landscape

Security check

There are few devices these days that do not connect to the internet in some way. As the world increasingly communicates and shops online, so the threat from cyber criminals will become more prominent as more information is processed in the data cloud.

More and more often, the threat is directed towards social networking sites, as they expand their user bases to hold the personal details of millions of people around the world. In addition, a growing number of devices routinely use third-party software, opening up application vulnerabilities.

“In recent years, security vendors have had to cope with an ever-growing number of threats, increasing sophistication and shortened ‘delivery time’ afforded by the internet,” observes Kaspersky Labs’ senior security researcher and member of the global research and analysis team, David Emm. “As a result, security solutions employ a range of technologies. Signatures continue to provide a valueadd for businesses and consumers alike. However, the ‘centre of gravity’ of security has been slowly moving towards the proactive – heuristics, behavioural analysis, intrusion detection, sandboxing and more. I believe this will continue to develop.”

The volume of attacks has increased primarily as a result of the sheer number of people who regularly use the internet as part of their day-to-day lives. Much of this traffic is channelled through Facebook, Twitter and the like.

“As the social networking sites gain consumer share, so the malware and spam attackers will target them more aggressively and we will hear more and more stories in the press,” notes Webroot’s director of EMEA consumer business development, David Bennett.

According to a recent survey by Webroot, 66 per cent of social network users don’t restrict their profile information from being visible through public search, while 30 per cent have experienced a security attack. Bullguard’s country manager for the UK and Ireland, Alan Case, has observed a rise in threats to another form of social network – online gaming – which can be particularly vulnerable as players are often required to enter their bank details in order to take part.

“We predict that we’ll see an increase in cases of identity theft as well as spam and phishing issues, targeting personal information,” says Case. “Gamers are an easy target because they often switch off their security applications when gaming and consequently we’re currently witnessing growth in the theft of gaming profiles.”

Another area of concern is the growing threat towards Macs. For many years, Mac users have been able to sit in the ‘safe zone’ provided by relative obscurity; however, the platform is increasingly popular among users and, as a result, among cyber criminals too. “I think that advice (that Mac users don’t need anti-viruses) is getting a bit long in the tooth,” says Symantec’s consumer product marketing director, Con Mallon. “Practical experience is now showing that with the dramatic growth in the number of Macs being used, no operating system, no browser, no application is 100 per cent bulletproof.

“The game is definitely changing – the fact is that the Mac platform is becoming more attractive to the cyber criminals, so I’m sorry to say that Mac users will find themselves under a greater threat than previously.”

The evolution of the way attacks are made has meant that security vendors have had to change their tactics to keep pace. The traditional method of ‘firewall plus scan’ no longer offers the kind of up-to-the-minute protection that is required. “The primary strategy has been the anti-malware approach,” says Microsoft UK’s head of security and privacy, Cliff Evans. “This is essentially the blacklist approach whereby you identify programmes that you don’t want on your PC. Really, the only alternative is a whitelist approach, whereby certain applications will run and everything else is denied access. I think in future, we’ll see a combination of these approaches. I think you’ll also see more heuristics – looking at the behaviour of software to help identify its purpose.”

Heuristics – or behavioural analysis – in security software is the process of analysing the actions or profile of a certain file and flagging it up as possible malicious code. The technique evolved in response to cyber criminals developing code that alters its own signature in order to evade anti-virus scans. “All vendors will have to move to behavioural detection as a major protection layer, as every anti-virus vendor receives between 20,000 and 30,000 new and unique bits of malcode every day,” predicts AVG’s chief research officer, Roger Thompson.

“Most of these are created automatically by generators and are created with the sole aim of acting as a smoke screen to hide the few hundred that will actually be aimed at victims.”

The trend for storing personal information online has grown recently, creating a need for security vendors to provide cloud security too. “We are all using more services delivered from the cloud, often without realising,” comments Panda Security’s UK managing director, Petter Lautin. “But cloud-based services are not limited solely to storage, they are also used for processing data. The cloud is a tool that can help save considerable costs for companies, and as such is rapidly growing in popularity. This makes attacks on cloud-based infrastructure and services far more likely.”

The security problems faced by cloud storage operators could be one of the enduring struggles of the year, if not the decade. As more people opt for remote storage, so those services become an increasingly tempting target for criminals.

“The problems of security and privacy on the web are getting dramatically worse,” observes Bennett. “People are doing more on the web, for example sensitive financial transactions, e-commerce and sharing personal information through social networks. It’s happening through an expanding array of devices – PCs, netbooks, smartphones and the like, and at the same time we’re seeing literally millions of new, increasingly sophisticated, security threats emerge every year.”

Emm has also observed the implications cloud computing holds: “It’s difficult to assess the security readiness of specific companies and I believe it would be unfair to try. In general terms, however, it’s important that all public-facing organisations take account of security. Most organisations are public-facing and, in the internet age, this means they are online – so online security is essential. This is particularly important for organisations that hold personal data.”

One solution that every security vendor PCR spoke to advocated is the development and maintenance of a strong user community. A community can serve as a sensor network above and beyond the ones that vendors already use, whether by actively participating or simply agreeing to host certain security programmes.

“Despite all the recent noise in the market about the benefits and advantages of protection from the cloud, only by developing a system that leverages the power of the user community is it possible to take advantage of detection in the cloud,” says Lautin.

Mallon also thinks that user interaction will be a defining path for the security providers in future: “All security providers are now talking about their communities. Some of the most effective assets we have are the 50 million Norton customers out there on the internet second by second – because in effect they are a massive sensing network for us.

“Through their common experience, we can gather that up and serve it out amongst all our users for the betterment of all. That has been a key concept that we brought to market with Norton 2010, and it is very much the way forward for the future. It has to be the way.”

Distributor: Focus Multimedia
SRP: £39.99 (For three users)

They say: Provides comprehensive proactive protection against all internet security threats, along with system maintenance and backup, without slowing down your PCs
Features: Low disk usage, antivirus, anti-spyware, identity and fraud protection, IM encryption, spam filtering, parental controls, tune-up and backup

Distributor: Direct
SRP: £39.95

They say: A comprehensive solution for home users, including spam blocker and firewall
Features: ThreatSense proactive protection, precise detection of known threats, lightweight design, fast background scanning speeds, NOD32 anti-virus, anti-spyware and spam blocker

Distributor: Koch Media
SRP: £29.99

They say: Minimal strain on system resources and advanced real-time detection technology to combat even the most complex forms of malware
Features: Comprehensive protection, anti-virus, free technical support, real-time registry and process protection, real-time network protection, ‘do not disturb’ mode

Distributor: Gem, Koch Media, EntaTech
SRP: £49.99 (For three users)

They say: Stops your PC or netbook being slowed down by cybercriminals and delivers unsurpassed online safety
Features: Identity protection, family protection, minimal system usage, gaming mode, virtual keyboard, two-way personal firewall, port protection, safe run, email and IM protection

Distributor: Gem, Koch Media, EntaTech
SRP: £39.99

They say: Stops malware before it can be passed from your Mac onto PCs and other systems on your network
Features: Protection from all known threats, file scanning, personal data and file protection, automated updates, internet and network security, email scanning, low power and processor usage, Kaspersky self-protection and free support

Distributor: Koch Media
SRP: £59.99 (For three-user, two-year licence)

They say: Faster, smarter security that won’t slow your computer down
Features: Identity protection that shields passwords and credit card numbers, webshield safe social networking, anti-spam, anti-virus and anti-spyware scans, enhanced firewall


Distributor: Interactive Ideas
SRP: £49.35 (For three users)

They say: The most comprehensive suite on the market. Protects your PC, your browser, and your data
Features: Advanced download protection. OS firewall, free credit bureau monitoring, antiphishing and site status updates, keylogger jamming, two-way firewall, anti-spam, virtual browsing, unified scan engine, private browsing, online backup, PC tune-up and parental controls

Distributor: Interactive Ideas
SRP: £29.99

They say: Essential anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection for your PC
Features: Advanced download protection, free credit bureau monitoring, two-way firewall, antiphishing and site status updates, OS Firewall, unified scan engine, parental controls and anti-spam

Distributor: Interactive Ideas
SRP: £74.99

They say: Provides comprehensive protection from malware, network threats and the many other security issues that Mac users face
Features: Anti-virus, anti-spyware, two-way firewall, anti-phishing, anti-spam, parental controls, backup and data protection

Distributor: Bluepoint
SRP: £8

They say: Blocks security threats effectively at the Windows Socket Layer itself and scans for restricted content in emails, removes malicious attachments and filters websites
Features: User-friendly GUI, real-time virus and content scanning, heuristic monitoring, antispam, parental controls, registry scanning, firewall and extensive logs and reports


Distributor: Micro-P
SRP: £29.99

They say: Panda Antivirus for Netbooks is price sensitive, easy to install, extremely light on resource consumption and has been tested on the most common netbook configurations
Features: Panda USB Vaccine, email and IM scanning, proactive detection, personal firewall, wireless monitor, anti-phishing filter, anti-banking trojan engine

Distributor: Micro-P
SRP: £49.99

They say: A security suite that lets you use the internet with complete peace of mind.
Features: Anti-malware engine with 80 per cent less memory consumption, real-time file and email scanning, generic signature and heuristic scanning, personal firewall

Distributor: Micro P
SRP: £19.99

They say: Sits on top of your existing anti-virus, shielding your passwords, credit card numbers, and other digital valuables from prying eyes
Features: Free upgrade to version nine, identity protection, up-to-date protection with no updates, fast and invisible, blocks new and unknown threats, compatible with all major security products

Distributor: Gem, EntaTech, Target Components, Spire
SRP: £44.99

They say: Built exclusively for the everyday user, putting safety, simplicity and an easy-to-use design first
Features: User-friendly interface, anti-virus, antispyware, firewall, anti-phishing, spam filter, backup, free tech support, gaming mode and IM protection

Distributor: Gem, Ingram Micro

They say: Offers the industry’s most comprehensive, all-in-one protection against digital dangers
Features: Cloud heuristics and reputation service, proactive download scanner, anti-spam, web-based access to backup, Norton system insight to improve PC and application performance

Distributor: Gem, Ingram Micro

They say: Protects your applications, settings, folders, files and everything else on your PC with professional grade backup and recovery
Features: Cold Imaging for backup without installing Ghost, Blu-ray support, full system or specific file backup, incremental backup saves only those files that have changed, Offsite or NAS backup, advanced compression and LightsOut Restore

Distributor: Gem, EntaTech
SRP: £39.99
They say: Keeps your PC protected without sacrificing speed. It loads and protects faster, requires less disk space, and doesn’t create confusion with an overload of unnecessary features
Features: Low disk usage, spy sweeper, complete protection against viruses, worms, trojans, keyloggers and rootkits, automatic backup, ‘shredder’ function, email monitoring and global response network

Check Also

Giacom and DWS appoint James Baker as Chief Alliance and Product Officer

Giacom and Digital Wholesale Solutions (DWS) have appointed James Baker as Chief Alliance and Product …