How the Anti Bot Industry is Mirroring the Antivirus Industry – Only Faster

February 19, 2015 Elias Terman

How the Anti Bot Industry is Mirroring the Bot Antivirus Industry – Only Faster

Anti bot code

Imagine that your IT team decided not to put antivirus software on your company’s computer systems this year. This won’t happen. Everyone knows that antivirus has been a staple of modern IT security since The 1990s.

Today, many business and IT executives are viewing anti bot security in much the same way. The rapid surge in bad bots has made anti bot defenses necessary for website security, mirroring the urgency that surrounded the antivirus industry 20 years ago.

Bad bots have exploded in volume, sophistication and impact far faster than computer viruses did, and they impact every business with a web presence. As a result, anti bot solutions have had to evolve much faster than antivirus vendors in order to keep pace.

Let’s break it down.

Antivirus industry moves from physical media to live quarterly updates

Antivirus solution vendors first became mainstream between 1990-1998 when their solutions provided on-demand scans of individual PCs and floppy disks. Near the end of this period, updates were provided on a quarterly basis over physical media on a machine-by-machine basis. It wasn’t until 1999 that Symantec’s Enterprise Edition 4.0 included live updates and protection for all servers and machines under one domain. However, even that solution was limited to Windows NT and NetWare networks, leaving many infrastructures without a centralized antivirus solution.

Antivirus industry gets more frequent updates, but fails to keep pace with zero-day viruses

By the mid-2000s, it became imperative to update antiviruses more frequently as new zero-day viruses were spreading like wildfire during update gaps. In fact, detection rates for zero-day threats sat at only 40-50% in 2006, then dropped to a horribly low 20-30% in 2007.[i] The antivirus industry had to react fast or lose credibility.

Antivirus industry goes SaaS and adds collective intelligence

By the end of 2007, vendors began offering SaaS-based antivirus with real-time updates. But there was still an intelligence gap. Then Panda introduced the concept of ‘Collective Intelligence’ in 2007.[ii] By 2009, Panda offered the only antivirus solution that collected threat intelligence from a community of users and then incorporated that data into its SaaS solution in real time. Soon after, industry pundits began to categorize antivirus as a proactive defense tool rather than a reactive infection cleanup tool. Here’s how TechRadar’s review put it in 2010: “We think that Panda Cloud Antivirus is best viewed as a defense tool rather than a utility for cleaning up a system that’s already riddled with infection.” [iii]

Bad bots have been more sophisticated from the start meaning anti bot solutions had to evolve much faster to keep up with the threat

The main motive for many early virus creators was notoriety. Symantec didn’t release its Critical System Protection product for enterprises until December 2005.[iii] That product was introduced as a direct response to viruses starting to use advanced methods of obfuscation. No longer were fingerprinting and heuristic virus identification methods enough. The industry had to proactively identify viruses through behavioral modeling in order to block them before they could compromise computer systems and servers.

By contrast, bad bots have leveraged obfuscation tactics much earlier in their existence. Today’s nefarious actors aren’t seeking recognition as much as their desire to secretly steal away valuable company data and information.

What took the antivirus industry 20 years, the anti bot industry has done in 3

From the outset, we had to deal with zero-day threats, large threat volumes, sophisticated obfuscation methods, and customers with a variety of web infrastructure environments. Best-of-breed anti bot solutions incorporate a multi-pronged approach to bot detection, including fingerprinting and heuristic identification, behavioral modeling and community intelligence. A proactive approach that stops the bots before they breach your website is a key tenet of a successful bot defense posture.

Distil Network’s purpose-built anti bot solution can be deployed anywhere

Distil anti bot solution deploys in any environment — in the cloud, on-premise, and complex heterogeneous environments. Only Distil’s superior technology delivers effective protection from any type of automated threat, across all bot inroads, at all times.

Right from the start Distil leveraged the collective intelligence across our community of Distil-protected websites, resulting in the industry’s largest ‘known violators bot database’. The result has been real-time identification, tracking and blocking of billions of bad bots per day on behalf of our community of protected websites in just a three-year period.

Today, anti bot defenses have started to become as mainstream as antivirus defenses did in the 1990s. That’s right, 3 years for the ultimate anti bot defense system versus the 19 years it took for antivirus vendors to reach the same level of protection against viruses.

Anti bot defenses now require more than technology

Perhaps the biggest difference between anti bot solutions and antivirus is that the problem can’t be solved by technology alone.

Every second of every day, billions of malicious bots are constantly probing enterprise websites, APIs, and mobile devices for vulnerabilities to exploit. The relentless and evolving threat from such attacks has imposed an imperative on IT security professionals to keep malicious bots at bay without affecting the legitimate web traffic their business needs to succeed.

Although many security and fraud software vendors claim they can do just that, it takes far more than technology to take on a foe so tenacious, adaptable, and devoted to doing harm. The nefarious actors creating today’s bots are highly incentivized and able to find vulnerabilities in any defense. They evolve their tactics and technologies daily to thwart any attempt to keep them out.

As a result, IT security departments are devoting far too many resources to an endless, unwinnable game of “whack-a-mole.” They are discovering the hard way that there is no silver bullet solution to this problem, and anyone offering an “easy” or “simple” defensive strategy is leaving their clients exposed and vulnerable.

To truly mitigate the growing threat from bad bots requires more than another piece of software. It demands a unique, more holistic approach to the problem—a defensive strategy comprised of the most sophisticated, comprehensive, and effective technology, applied and supported by the most vigilant and agile team of experts.

It takes a dedicated ally—armed with the deep knowledge and experience necessary to understand, address, and prevent both known and new threats as they arise. This is Distil Networks—industry pioneers who 1) literally invented anti bot protection, 2) understand that human experience and innovation are as important as the sophisticated technology they apply, and 3) know that keeping websites and APIs safe from automated threats requires non-stop vigilance and dedication.

The war on against bot attacks is not a “winnable” one, and by all accounts, the worst is yet to come. But for companies who want to turn the tide in their favor, there is no one better to have alongside them in the trenches than Distil. Our passion is our clients’ protection because we understand that any attack, at any time, is a threat to their business livelihood—as well as our own. With Distil, there is finally an anti bot defense that is as sophisticated, adaptable, and vigilant as the threat itself.

 


[i] Goodin, Dan (2007). “Anti-virus protection gets worse,” The Channel, December 21, 2007. Accessed online February 2, 2015 from the following source: http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2007/12/21/dwindling_antivirus_protection/
[ii] Panda Security (2015). Accessed online February 2, 2015 from the following source: http://www.cloudantivirus.com/help/01/h_en/25.htm
[iii] TechRadar (2010). “Panda Cloud Antivirus approaches virus protection from a different angle,” TechRadar, March 7, 2010. Accessed online February 2, 2015 from the following source: http://www.techradar.com/reviews/pc-mac/software/utilities/anti-malware-software/panda-cloud-anitvirus-674644/review 

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About the Author

Elias Terman

Elias Terman is VP of Marketing and is responsible for all aspects of the global marketing and communications strategy. Elias started his career as an entrepreneur, and now enjoys helping grow Silicon Valley startups into industry leaders. He built out the marketing and business development organizations at OneLogin leading to explosive growth, helped establish SnapLogic as the leading independent integration company, and led MindFire Studio to the Inc 500.

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