Naturally, with the vast amount of important information passing from computer to computer worldwide, there has been an increased risk of trojans, viruses, malware, spyware, and other digital threats.
Computer literacy and smart browsing habits are a major line of defense against cybercriminals, but many antivirus solutions have emerged to protect both individuals and businesses from cyber threats.
The Market for Security
The market for cybersecurity is growing quickly. Annual revenues for security software have reached $23 billion US globally and make up a large percentage of total information security spending. McAfee and Symantec, for example, have generated $1.75 billion and $3.5 billion, respectively.
In terms of profit growth, however, most companies have plateaued in recent years, including names like Symantec, Trend Micro, McAfee, and AVG. While IBM has shown a noticeable rise in profit in the past five years, the antivirus market is now taken up with free solutions like Microsoft Security Essentials and Avast Free, which collectively make up 30% of the market.
Thankfully, antiviruses do seem effective at their jobs. AV-TEST is one of the most trusted independent sources for antivirus testing, and many of their tests check for protection against:
- Zero-day attacks (viruses taking advantage of security holes before they are discovered and patched)
- Web and email threats
- Prevalent malware
Popular options like Avast, Bitdefender, and Avira often score as high as 100% against these attacks. Plus, most antivirus programs can run discreetly in the background without affecting the machine’s performance.
Popular Features of Antivirus Programs
If you’re in the market for a new antivirus, there are some important features to look for, including:
- Web browser protection
- Virtual Private Networks (VPN) for secure browsing
- Automatic virus definition updates to keep software up-to-date
- Heuristic analyses to detect new threats before a definition exists
The Threats Against Businesses
A study by the Hasso-Plattner Institute found that IT software security vulnerabilities is at an all-time high, with 11,150 security risks registered globally.
The total global damage to businesses as a result of cybercrime has been estimated at $1.5 billion dollars annually. That figure has been rising exponentially since the early 2000s, though much of the rise can be attributed to a general increase in the value of online businesses.
Online threats not only expose the business but also any customers using its services. Among the several high-profile data breaches in recent years, the largest was Yahoo, in which three billion user accounts were compromised. Details of that breach didn’t surface until years afterward.
Restaurants and retail stores can also be breached, resulting in stolen payment information that can be costly to resolve. The Jason’s Deli restaurant chain, for example, leaked the credit card information of two million customers last year.
Government organizations aren’t safe, either. The US voter database breach of 2015 caused a considerable amount of damage to citizens.
The Threats Against Regular Users
Global surveys have shown that well over half of the population is both aware and concerned about potential online security risks. However, an estimated one-fourth of PCs are not protected with antivirus software, leaving them on average 5.5 times more likely to be infected.
For desktops and laptop computers, trojans are the most common infection, followed by PUPs (potentially unwanted programs).
Where are these threats coming from? The usual entry point is through applications like infected Microsoft Office files. Web browsers come in second thanks to more complex yet vulnerable features incorporated into them. Chrome and Firefox have launched browser extensions that, while useful, open the door to potentially harmful add-ons from untrustworthy sources.
Geographically, China, Turkey, and Taiwan have the highest percentage of infected computers, with nearly half of machines containing some form of malware.
The Nordic nations and Japan, however, have the lowest rates of malware globally, where only around 20 percent of machines are infected.
Thanks to the rise of smartphones, there has been a lot of focus on mobile antiviruses. The worldwide market for mobile device security software is about $3.4 billion in revenue. An estimated 1.3 billion smartphones have some sort of mobile security software installed, a four-fold increase since five years ago.
The corporate world isn’t slouching either. Forty-two percent of companies have designed strategies against mobile threats, and security is cited as the main consideration for businesses looking to issue smartphones to their employees.
However, trojans and viruses are still a threat. Android, in particular, is a rather large target for cybercriminals thanks to its open-source nature (i.e., apps can be downloaded from essentially anywhere).
Most threats affecting mobile devices are some form of adware (unwanted advertisements in malicious apps) and trojans.
Cloud computing is a large, interconnected system of servers transferring huge amounts of data to various clients around the world. Expectedly, this digital trend has seen activity in the antivirus market. Global spending for cloud computing antiviruses has reached $1 billion recently, and that cost has been increasing for years.
Another emerging technology is security software for smart vehicles, as demonstrations have already shown the potential for hacking a vehicle, even one in motion. As such, the market for automotive antivirus is projected to reach $713 million by 2020.
Summary of Major Antivirus Statistics
Viruses aren’t going away anytime soon. Infection rates will continue to climb as new threats like ransomware are growing in prevalence. Today’s viruses still function like traditional ones, but they’ve become increasingly sophisticated in order to infect greater numbers of users and businesses.
The best solution to this problem is still reliable, up-to-date antivirus software.