Antivirus vs. Anti-Malware: What’s the Difference?

Every 39 seconds (about the time it takes to capture a photo and upload it to social media) a hacker strikes. 

antivirus vs anti-malware
Antivirus and anti-malware, which are two different forms of endpoint protection, are part of a Purple Team Hive Assessment.

The frequency of hacks equates to approximately 75 records stolen every second and makes cybercrime more profitable than the global illegal drug trade.

Understandably, cybersecurity is at the forefront of many professionals’ minds. If your business’s information is hacked, the consequences can be catastrophic.

As a security adviser, here at The KR Group, we get many questions about how our customers can protect their IT systems from malicious attacks. 

On the managed services side of our business, we also get questions about the endpoint security software we require our customers to install to use our services. 

One of these questions is the difference between antivirus and anti-malware.

To explain how antivirus and anti-malware differ and, ultimately, why you need protection, in this article, we’ll discuss:

  1. The difference between viruses and malware
  2. The difference between antivirus and anti-malware
  3. The options you have for antivirus, anti-malware software

What’s the difference between viruses and malware?

You’ve likely heard the term computer virus. It was a buzz word in the 1990s when malicious attacks started gaining popularity.

By definition, a virus is a piece of code that copies itself inside of your IT system. While it’s creating copies of itself, it’s aiming to do damage to your network, such as corrupting your system or destroying your data. 

If you’re looking for a non-technical analogy, think of it more as a cancer cell than a biological virus. 

Malware, on the other hand, is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of malicious software, including adware, bots, bugs, ransomware, spyware, Trojans, spyware, worms, and viruses.

In other words, all viruses are malware, but not all malware are viruses. 

In today’s cyberattack sphere, viruses are a legacy threat, though, and they haven’t evolved and aren’t often used in cyberattacks anymore. 

Cybercriminals have turned to those other forms of malware to attack your systems. 

What’s the difference between antivirus and anti-malware?

Now that you know the difference between viruses and malware, you know exclusively using antivirus software won’t protect you from every threat.

You need anti-malware — commonly referred to as endpoint protection.

(Endpoint protection, as its name indicates, offers other host-based features as well, including firewall policies and rules, intrusion detection and prevention, and advanced alerting.)

The good news is even though viruses haven’t evolved, antivirus software has. Strong antivirus software protects you from a host of security threats, even if their name is slightly misleading. 

Antivirus software, which is almost always anti-malware software, checks your computer system against a database of known malware. It may also scan your computer against a list of “suspicious behaviors” to further search for malicious programs. 

If your antivirus identifies any malicious software, it prevents it from executing and removes the threat.  

If you start researching antivirus software, you’ll likely come across next-gen antivirus, which utilizes artificial intelligence to identify malicious attacks by their behavior in your network instead of relying on a database of threats like traditional antivirus. 

What are your options for antivirus, anti-malware software? 

As we briefly mentioned before, in order to reduce the risk of a malware attack, you’ll need an antivirus, anti-malware software. 

You have two options: 

1. Choose traditional anti-virus software with anti-malware protection. 

If you go this route, you’ll be protected from a variety of threats that your software scans for. 

However, it is imperative for you to continually update your software to the latest version so your anti-malware knows the newest attacks to look for. 

2. Choose next-gen antivirus software with machine learning.

Next-gen antivirus takes anti-malware protection to the next level by incorporating artificial intelligence into the software. 

You get the same protection as traditional antivirus, but the AI component makes you less dependent on updates. 

Next steps to take towards a stronger security posture

antivirus vs anti-malware protection
Anti-malware protection is a first-line of defense for your information, but a more extensive security assessment is needed to mitigate the majority of vulnerabilities.

Having anti-malware protection provides the first line of defense in protecting your computer system from malware and risking losing your valuable information. 

However, it doesn’t reduce your risks for all threats. 

For more tips on security practices, check out our other articles:

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