Antivirus Software Is ‘Increasingly Useless’ and May Make Your Computer Less Safe

Emily Chung, writing for CBC: Is your antivirus protecting your computer or making it more hackable? Internet security experts are warning that anti-malware technology is becoming less and less effective at protecting your data and devices, and there’s evidence that security software can sometimes even make your computer more vulnerable to security breaches. This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) issued a warning about popular antivirus software made by Symantec, some of it under the Norton brand, after security researchers with Google’s Project Zero found critical vulnerabilities. “These vulnerabilities are as bad as it gets. They don’t require any user interaction, they affect the default configuration, and the software runs at the highest privilege levels possible,” wrote Google researcher Tavis Ormandy in a blog post. Symantec said it had verified and addressed the issues in updates that users are advised to install. It’s not the only instance of security software potentially making your computer less safe. Concordia University professor Mohammad Mannan and his PhD student Xavier de Carne de Carnavalet recently presented research on antivirus and parental control software packages, including popular brands like AVG, Kaspersky and BitDefender, that bypass some security features built into internet browsers to verify whether sites are safe or not in order to be able to scan encrypted connections for potential threats. In theory, they should make up for it with their own content verification systems. But Mannan’s research, presented at the Network and Distributed System Security Symposium in California earlier this year, found they didn’t do a very good job. “We were surprised at how bad they were,” he said in an interview. “Some of them, they did not even make it secure in any sense.”


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