Cloud Antivirus: What is it? What are its benefits over traditional Antivirus?

With the continuous growth in cybercrimes and the emergence of new malware types, the security programs such as antimalware and antivirus have become a necessity for everyone, even if you are just a casual computer user.

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Although many traditional antivirus programs are robust enough to detect and remove malicious programs from the system, they might not be real-time updated every time. Also, because of the security features they come with, antivirus programs have become heavy and might affect the system’s functioning.

To overcome these and more such limitations, Cloud Antivirus is becoming increasingly popular.

In this blog post, we will discuss what cloud antivirus is, its benefits over traditional antivirus software, and how it can help keep your system safe from malicious threats.

What is Cloud Antivirus?

The term Cloud Antivirus or cloud-based antivirus is used to describe a new class of antivirus that does not need a local client in order to work. Instead, the antivirus server is hosted in the cloud, where it holds information about malicious files and behaviors. Access to this server is gained via a web portal, through which end-users can check for malware presence on their computers. This means that you do not need to install any antivirus software on your system or keep updating it every time there is malware detection.

Additionally, because the server is constantly updated with information about a new malware, you can rest assured that there will be no loopholes for hackers to exploit.

How does Cloud Antivirus work?

The way Cloud Antivirus work remains almost the same as traditional antivirus programs. The only difference with cloud-based antivirus is that they do not run as an independent program on your computer or mobile device but use a portal to check for any suspicious files and behavior on it. When you send a file for analysis through this portal, an automatic scan is performed against all known malicious files and reported back to the server in real-time. If the test reveals no threats, you will be notified accordingly; otherwise, you can download the file safely from your account without worrying about malware presence. 

Cloud antivirus uses a variety of techniques for malware detection. The most common of them is the heuristic method, which detects suspicious behavior and blocks access to that particular file or webpage. It also analyzes suspicious files with the help of remote cloud servers and provides users with updates so they can protect their data from new attacks even before they happen on someone else’s computer.

In short, instead of using your system resources, cloud antivirus uses a dedicated server for scanning files and URLs from all across the world. Also, you do not have to wait until some unknown malware strikes in order to find out about it, as it will be immediately notified about any virus detected by other computers.

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Apart from that, cloud antivirus can also help you manage security on multiple systems. For example, if you have a fleet of computers that are hard to update manually, then cloud antivirus can be an effective solution for your business.

Benefits of Cloud Antivirus:

There are numerous benefits of using a cloud-based antivirus instead of an in-house or locally installed one. Some of those benefits are as follows:

1. Prevent Data Loss and Damage:

Cloud antivirus software enables organizations to secure their data against malware and other such attacks, which pose significant threats to businesses with the help of continuous scanning and prevention mechanisms. This way, it ensures no information is leaked due to any malicious activities at any single point in time worldwide.

2. Zero-Day Threats:

In the case of traditional antivirus software, you would have to wait until some new piece of malware is discovered and a corresponding signature is uploaded on a local database. This may take several days before the update reaches your computer, which might be too late as hackers could then exploit zero-day vulnerabilities in the security system. Cloud antivirus services claim that they can protect your data from zero-day threats by maintaining an updated global database with threat patterns.

3. Protection Against New Malware Attacks:

The cloud antivirus protects against new types of malware attacks which spread very quickly across computers all over the world. It does so by providing users with immediate protection across multiple devices – mobile phones, tablets, and PCs without any requirement for additional downloads.

4. Eliminates False Positives:

False positives are quite common with locally installed antivirus software, which often misidentifies safe content like malware and blocks it. This can create many issues like slow computer performance, failure to access important files or the need to manually override the malicious file blocking every time there is false positive detection. However, cloud-based AV ensures that no such thing happens by maintaining an updated database of known safe files and their behavior patterns.

5. Ease of Use:

Cloud AVs are designed in a way that they can be accessed remotely through PCs, Smartphones, and tablets without any requirement for local installation on each device. This makes it easy for business users to ensure each of their employees is protected even when they are working remotely.

6. Ease of installation and Maintainance:

Since cloud antivirus software is accessed remotely, setting it up on your device does not require any installation process or additional processes that might impact system performance. Moreover, updates are pushed directly to the user’s system without the need for manual downloads, which ensures protection against all known types of malware attacks, none of which go unreported.

7. Compatibility:

Cloud antivirus services are compatible with most operating systems like Windows 11/10/8, Mac OSX, and Linux secure kernel modules. They can also be installed on gaming consoles like Playstation 3, 4, 5 & Xbox 360/1.

8. Low Costs:

Traditional antivirus software requires you to install security software on each of your devices irrespective of whether or not they are connected online. This increases the cost of buying security software since you would have to purchase licenses for all connected devices. Cloud antivirus offers unlimited device protection at relatively low costs, which makes it ideal for small/medium businesses.

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9. Protection Over Public Wi-Fi Networks:

Just like traditional AVs use signature-based scanning for detecting malicious files, cloud antivirus uses a heuristic approach to detect new as well as unknown potential threats by examining file content against a vast database of known malware signatures. This makes cloud-based antivirus very effective at preventing the distribution of malware through public Wi-Fi hotspots.

10. Prevention from Reverse Engineering:

Cloud antivirus software is capable of detecting reverse engineering attempts, which hackers use to examine and modify file contents in order to create new types of malware with different characteristics.

Cloud Antivirus vs. Traditional Antivirus

Though their ultimate goal is to protect your devices and network from malicious threats, both Cloud Antivirus and Traditional Antivirus are different than each other in many aspects.

Traditional antivirus software monitors system activity and uses a database of known malicious file signatures to detect threats. Signature-based scanning is a time-consuming process as it requires the identification, acquisition, and loading of known malware files onto the local computer for inspection. It takes a considerable amount of time before new types of threats can be identified since they must be manually captured, processed, and loaded into the system. This makes it easy for hackers to distribute new malware variants before they are detected through traditional AVs.

On the other hand, cloud antivirus uses a heuristic approach to detect unknown file-based threats by examining their content against a huge database of known malware signatures. Heuristics-based scanning allows cloud antivirus to prevent the distribution of malware through public Wi-Fi hotspots since it can identify new threats even when they are encrypted.

The traditional antivirus software requires considerable installation effort that may slow down computer boot-up times while reducing system performance. It is also incompatible with memory dump tools, which require frequent computer reboots after every scan.

In contrast to this, cloud antivirus can be used across multiple devices without any limitations on system resources or frequent computer restarts. Furthermore, it does not interfere with the performance of other applications and remains hidden from users who do not need access to its scanning capabilities.

Limitations of Cloud Antivirus

Though cloud antivirus offers many benefits over traditional AVs, it has several limitations as well.

  • Requires Internet Connection: If your device does not have an active internet connection, you won’t be able to take advantage of the cloud-based security system. This limitation can prove costly in cases where you urgently need protection but can’t access the internet.
  • Limited Customization Options: Since cloud antivirus runs on a remote server, it does not allow you to make any modifications to the malware detection engine. For instance, if your company is working with highly sensitive data, you may require configuring certain parameters to block access to external devices.
  • Single Point of Failure: Since the entire file scanning process takes place at one location, i.e., the AV provider’s server farm, there is always a chance that hackers may take control over multiple servers in order to send false information and omit real threats from being identified and blocked. There have already been cases of large-scale attacks on cloud servers, where hundreds of thousands of computers were targeted and used to launch Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks.
  • Privacy Concerns: Since cloud antivirus software sends all file contents to the server for analysis, there is always a chance that hackers may access your sensitive data. If your data is located on a third-party server rather than your local hard drive, you will have limited control over the security of sensitive information.
  • Downtime: Cloud servers may become unavailable due to maintenance or technical issues at any time, which will prevent your devices from receiving updates and security patches.
  • Data Retention Issues: Since cloud antivirus software stores all files on the server-side, it may become impossible to delete your personal data in cases where security concerns are not addressed by the provider or if the company ceases operations.
  • Geolocation Errors: Cloud antivirus applications usually have servers located in multiple countries worldwide to provide faster processing times and lower network latency when distributing updates over public networks. This may lead to multiple servers identifying different files as malware, which may cause conflicting results.
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Summing Up

Though cloud antivirus software provides excellent solutions to traditional AV weaknesses, it still has some limitations that need to be addressed in the future. However, its benefits far outweigh the drawbacks and can help you secure your devices against modern malware threats without compromising on system resources.

This is not to say that traditional antivirus programs are not efficient enough. Remember, while cloud antivirus uses the latest technology in order to keep you safe from malware, traditional software still has its own value. The choice between one or the other will ultimately depend on your requirements and budget. You also have the option to use a hybrid solution for the best security.

What is the difference between cloud storage and cloud antivirus?

Cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc., allow you to store files on their servers so that they can be accessed from multiple devices while ensuring high reliability. On the other hand, Cloud antivirus is a more comprehensive solution that provides real-time scanning of file contents to identify malware that attempts to infiltrate computers through email attachments or downloads. It also serves as an excellent backup solution for saving pictures, videos, and music files without using bulky external hard drives.

Is it possible to install cloud antivirus software on my device?

Yes, depending on your requirements, you can run local or remote scans on your computer. Local scans are faster, while remote scans provide better detection rates since they verify file contents in real-time before allowing them to enter your computers over public networks.

Would installing cloud antivirus affect system performance?

While traditional antivirus software is installed on the local hard drive, cloud antivirus uses remote servers for file scanning. This allows it to provide excellent detection without using up too many system resources.

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