Anti-Hacking Software vs Anti-Virus Software – Understanding the Difference
Wikipedia defines a computer virus as follows:
“A computer virus is a malware that, when executed, replicates by reproducing it self or infecting other programs by modifying them. Infecting computer programs can include as well, data files, or the boot sector of the hard drive. When this replication succeeds, the affected areas are then said to be “infected”. The term computer virus was a misnomer until it was coined by Fred Cohen in 1985. Viruses often perform some type of harmful activity on infected hosts, such as acquisition of hard disk space or CPU time, accessing private information, corrupting data, displaying political or humorous messages on the user’s screen, spamming their contacts, logging their keystrokes, or even rendering the computer useless. However, not all viruses carry a destructive payload or attempt to hide themselves—the defining characteristic of viruses is that they are self-replicating computer programs which install themselves without user consent.
Virus writers use social engineering and exploit detailed knowledge of security vulnerabilities to gain access to their hosts’ computing resources. The vast majority of viruses target systems running Microsoft Windows, employing a variety of mechanisms to infect new hosts, and often using complex anti-detection/stealth strategies to evade antivirus software. Motives for creating viruses can include seeking profit, desire to send a political message, personal amusement, to demonstrate that a vulnerability exists in software, for sabotage and denial of service, or simply because they wish to explore artificial life and evolutionary algorithms.
Computer viruses currently cause billions of dollars’ worth of economic damage each year, due to causing system failure, wasting computer resources, corrupting data, increasing maintenance costs, etc. In response, free, open-source antivirus tools have been developed, and an industry of antivirus software has cropped up, selling or freely distributing virus protection to users of various operating systems. Even though no currently existing antivirus software is able to uncover all computer viruses (especially new ones), computer security researchers are actively searching for new ways to enable antivirus solutions to more effectively detect emerging viruses, before they have already become widely distributed.”
Once installed, anti-virus programs regularly scan your installed operating system, applications and data to see if any recent changes have occurred to your system with a virus being installed or attached to it that has now “Infected” your computer.
Having said this, anti-virus programs never look at the configuration of an operating system. They look for malicious delivered code mostly through watching programs you install or in email attachments – and they have to know about what is out there before they can write an update. If they don’t know about a virus already, their program can’t protect you. And as to anti-virus programs, remote connections aren’t a problem – they are ‘normal conditions’.
In essence, anti-virus software applications check your computer and inbound to your computer content to ensure that it is clean and that nothing of an infecting nature is being sent to your system from an external source. The end user usually “invites” the virus into his or her own computer by clicking on or downloading some form of executable that installs the malware on the computer.
While the boundaries between anti-virus software and anti-hacking software are not always clear and there is overlap of a sort, one of the key differences between the two is that with viruses, the user invites the software in and it is “impersonal”. The virus does not know about you or your system until you have invited it into your system to look around.
Anti-hacking software on the other hand, configures and “mutes” your system against more personal attacks. It protects you against external threats where, for the most part, people or companies are deliberately targeting you and/or your publicly visible presence on a connected Internet to find ways to get into your system through its setup defenses to get protected information from you or to do damage. Viruses are impersonal, hacks are personal.
So whereas anti-virus software is constantly searching your world for infect-able code so it can eradicate it, anti-hacker code strives to hide you and protect you from personalized hacker attacks. Software such as this uses various techniques to stop external entities from getting through your firewalls and other protection software to “see you” and figure a way into your servers to steal protected information and cause destruction.