ESET Integrates Anti-Virus, Anti-Theft and Facebook Security
Although it can be hard to remember in an age where phishing schemes and server attacks fill headlines in the IT world, one of the greatest threats against PCs and mobile devices still comes in the form of good, old-fashioned theft. Given that danger, more security vendors might do well to follow the example of ESET, which is building software that integrates protection against virtual threats with anti-theft functionality.
Version 6 of ESET’s Smart Security suite, which debuted last week, adds several tools to combat physical theft alongside the anti-virus and network-security solutions available in previous releases. The anti-theft functionality includes physical tracking of a stolen device via IP address, remote recovery of data from a compromised machine and, of course, the ability to take clandestine photos of the thief from a webcam. (This practice has always seemed a little creepy to me, like some kind of voyeurism intended to make victims feel empowered, but I suppose it might also play a role in helping to recover stolen computers.)
As observers of the security channel will note, many of these anti-theft features are already available in other products. Prey, for instance, provides them in an open source package that works on several operating systems and is available for free in a basic version. (Paid plans offer added functionality.)
Asked how ESET sets itself apart from competitors, however, Senior Product Marketing Manager Damir Seferovic emphasized ESET’s integration of anti-theft functionality into a more comprehensive security suite (most other anti-theft platforms don’t provide anti-virus or similar features), ESET’s Diagnostics feature, which “allows users to properly configure PC with Windows accounts setup for an added level of security,” and the unlimited number of devices and theft reports that ESET allows for each customer. Solutions such as Prey limit the number of machines that can be protected and reports filed by a single account.
Social Media Threats and Cloud-Computing Innovation
ESET Smart Security 6 also brings some other features to the table that highlight the demands of modern computer users when it comes to comprehensive security solutions. One of the most interesting is what ESET calls a Social Media Scanner (a feature also available in the most recent version of the company’s NOD32 Antivirus platform, a more basic alternative to Smart Security that comes with a lighter price tag), which is billed as defense for “the social media user and their friends from malicious content, including protection of their profile, wall, newsfeed and private messages.”
In another intriguing innovation, ESET has developed a feature that takes advantage of the cloud to assist in scanning files for malicious content by checking them against ESET’s “file reputation” database. While this may not be the most inventive development in cloud computing itself–connecting to the Internet to download up-to-date information about threats is hardly a new feature of anti-virus software–it is an example of one way in which the cloud and security converge.
Perhaps a more innovative approach would be to speed up file scanning by doing it in the cloud rather than locally, where CPU power tends to be much more limited. But that would likely be an expensive proposition, and one that presumably would create new security concerns by uploading user data to the cloud for scanning.
Personally, I’ve been fortunate never to suffer theft of a laptop or phone–due in part, perhaps, to the extreme paranoia I exhibit toward watching my stuff in places such as airport security lines, a trait which does not always sit well with the TSA. And since I use Linux, I am less concerned about many of the digital malware threats that ESET’s products–which support Windows only–protect against. Still, it’s reassuring to know in a time when software designers themselves seem to place security at the back of their minds, that next-generation platforms are available for personal computing devices that defend users from the range of dangers, physical and virtual, that they face today.