Is Cloud Anti-Virus ready for the mass market?

World News

They presented their results of some in-depth testing of anti-virus
solutions using the cloud as a supplemental method to deliver malware
identities. What did they find?

Overall they determined that solutions using “in-the-cloud”
services were no more effective than traditional anti-virus solutions. They
also noted that the results they have seen from the vendors they tested are
wildly unpredictable as to what to expect from one threat to the next.

One of the points made by Andreas really hit home for me, which is that the
ability to publish identities seems to be the gating factor in providing up to
the moment protection. The delivery mechanism is largely unimportant if you
have a reliable means of providing threat data to the product.

In their paper, they also mention that on-computer anti-virus has far more
capabilities for detecting new malware than simple file checksums. Today’s
cloud-based services rely on checksums which are not equipped to deal with
server-side polymorphic malware.

Andreas had pointed out that there were inconsistencies with results from
some vendors. He showed how one vendor showed a file as being suspicious via
its cloud service, then it was safe later that day, and finally marked
malicious that evening. During the question and answer period, Dmitry Gryaznov
had some clarifications to this slide from McAfee’s perspective. Confusingly,
Dmitry seemed to confirm that this was in fact true.

Another issue raised in the talk was around network impact, especially in
organizations with a large concentration of computers. Not just malicious files
are being checksummed and sent into the cloud, many legitimate files may
trigger the technology as well. In their paper, they point out that these
transactions can be 5K bytes or more, resulting in a potentially significant amount
of bandwidth in a organization with network capacity issues.

Unless I misunderstood, this rush to identify checksums and publish them as
suspicious and revoke them later seems to imply that there could be a high
false-positive, or false-negative problem. Andreas and Maik touched on their
concerns related to quality assurance processes as well.

The conclusion of the tests performed reinforced my existing thoughts on
providing best protection to our customers computers. Provide quality updates
as fast as you can. The means of delivery are not important so long as the
computers receive their identities.

Sophos has used “the cloud” in our anti-spam solutions for several
yearsArticle Submission, and like any other technology will carefully consider which tool
provides the best protection for our customers in each scenario we provide
solutions to.