What is Next-Gen Antivirus (NGAV) and How Does It Work?

next-gen antivirus for IT risk assessment
Endpoint protection, which includes antivirus, is one component of The KR Group’s Purple Team Hive Assessment.

As security threats evolve, you may find yourself wondering if your current method of protection is enough to protect your information.

Viruses, ransomware, Trojans, and other forms of malware can be catastrophic if they make their way inside your network. Your confidential and proprietary information can be compromised, so it’s understandable you want to ensure the utmost level of protection. 

As a security adviser and a managed services provider (MSP), one of the endpoint security solutions we recommend to our customers in next-generation antivirus, often shortened to next-gen antivirus or simply NGAV.

As the name implies NGAV is the next generation of antivirus software.

Traditional antivirus has been around for decades. For a long time, it provided adequate protection from most viruses and eventually evolved to cover other forms of malware.

However, as attacks evolved, traditional antivirus didn’t keep up, and there became a need for a better form of endpoint protection.

Enter NGAV

While there isn’t an exact definition of what NGAV must include, most experts agree it needs to go beyond the signature-based detection of traditional antivirus and use advanced technology to detect the threats traditional antivirus was missing.

Four of ways good NGAV protects you from advanced threats are:

  1. NGAV provides protection for next-generation attacks.
  2. NGAV uses built-in AI learning to detect suspicious activity.
  3. NGAV software incorporates endpoint detection and response (EDR).
  4. NGAV software uses cloud-based analytics.

Using this technology is imperative for NGAV because it provides a way to stop the attacks that were getting around traditional AV.

1.   NGAV provides protection for next-generation attacks.

Cyber attackers have evolved their processes to anticipate what traditional antivirus will catch. They’re now multi-staged, personalized, and higher risk.

While traditional antivirus relies on a set of known threats, behaviors, processes, etc., NGAV goes a step further and anticipates the attacks and provides a way to stop them.

NGAV looks at your files, processes, applications, and network connections to see how actions are related. This allows your NGAV to identify data with malicious intents, behaviors, and activities. 

2.   NGAV uses built-in AI learning to detect suspicious activity.

With traditional antivirus software, your cybersecurity is only as good as the most recent database your antivirus is checking files and actions against.  

next-gen antivirus for IT risk assessment
At top, The KR Group’s CISSP Jamey Wofford, and, at right, The KR Group’s CISO Bob Barrett review Purple Team Hive Assessment, including NGAV information

For this reason, updates to traditional antivirus are critical because they tell the traditional antivirus software what new threats it needs to protect you from.

NGAV, on the other hand, uses machine learning and AI to spot suspicious behaviors out of line with the typical operations on your computer.

In the same way your bank calls to verify purchases from places it thinks you shouldn’t be shopping, machine learning enables NGAV to use predictive analytics to pick out what actions are and aren’t coming from you.

When NGAV sees something that’s not in-line with your normal computer behavior, it’ll flag the activity as malicious and prevent it from executing.

As an added bonus, the longer you use NGAV, the more it will learn about your behaviors and the more effective it will become at identifying malicious behaviors.

3.   NGAV software incorporates endpoint detection and response (EDR).

NGAV is much better at protecting your data than traditional antivirus, but it still has its limits.

NGAV is better than traditional antivirus at identifying and reacting to threats, but attackers know these limitations and craft stealthy malware to get around these defensives.

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) keep a history of endpoint activities to provide surveillance of your operations.

Like a surveillance camera, the data collected with EDR can be used to investigate past incidents or keep an eye out for threats.

This kind of surveillance adds an additional level of endpoint protection and enables machine learning, predictive analytics, and behavior monitoring.

4.   NGAV software uses cloud-based analytics.

In order to work to its fullest potential, NGAV (and EDR) uses the cloud to stream analytics and offer bi-directional communication with endpoints.

next-gen antivirus for security risk assessment
The KR Group’s CISSP Jamey Wofford goes over vulnerability findings (including NGAV) during a Purple Team Hive Assessment report.

The cloud provides the computational power and scalability needed for the information NGAV attains to be monitored and compared to other historical data.

Ultimately, this ability is what allows NGAV to be proactive about protecting your data instead of reactive.

Why do you need NGAV?

Attackers have learned how to get around traditional antivirus, and it is no longer the best method of protection.

If you want protection from the majority of threats in today’s cyber environment, having NGAV is a must. With endpoint detection and response, built-in AI learning, and cloud capabilities, NGAV can protect you from most “next-generation” attacks.

NGAV is only a piece of the armor needed to protect your information from malicious attacks, though. 

For more tips about creating a strong security posture, check out our other articles:

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