Endpoint Antivirus vs Endpoint Security: A Comprehensive Comparison of the Difference Between Them

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Did you know cyber attacks cost the global economy a staggering $400 billion per year? With advanced technology, cyber criminals are smuggling themselves into devices all around the world. However, there is software available to block these cyber attacks in the form of antivirus and endpoint security software. Both systems work to protect your company’s data and the systems that support your business. And while they’re not interchangeable terms for the same systems, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the two. To help you decide which product is best for you, we’ve broken down endpoint antivirus vs endpoint security.

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What is Antivirus Software?

To understand the two systems, we’ll start with antivirus (AV) software. Antivirus software prevents, detects and removes malware. Malware is any software intended to harm a computer network or its sub-components. Viruses are actually only one kind of malware, but today’s antivirus vendors typically protect against a wide variety. The following are some of the most common threats you may encounter online:

  • Viruses: This type of malware, aptly named after the ineffective biological agent, duplicates itself using the existing software on your computer. When you run the infected programs, the virus runs and replicates as well. Viruses cause damage in a multitude of ways. They can corrupt your data, waste your network’s resources and shut down your system altogether.
  • Worms: Worms are similar to viruses but are able to replicate on their own and don’t need to utilize any existing software.
  • Bots: Bots are another type of malware when used for malicious activity. However, bots are not always malware. For instance, Googlebot is the software used to index the internet for their search engine. Bots perform processes that would be done by an end-user on a computer. They can gather knowledge on sensitive information such as keystrokes, financial information, passwords and more. Botnet attacks are performed using a network of infected devices to attack targets remotely.
  • Trojans: Trojans are disguised to look like genuinely useful software but are actually harmful. This is meant to lull the user into a sense of false security so they execute the software on their device. Trojans spread through user action alone, as they cannot duplicate themselves or use other systems to do so.
  • Ransomware: This type of malware is used to extort something of value from a user by threatening to publish user information or lock access to their files. In the past, ransomware has often been carried out using Trojans or Worms.
  • Spyware: Spyware may use one or several different types of malware to gain and send information without the user knowing. Spyware can be hard to detect on your own, since its primary goal doesn’t often involve harming any of your processes. Instead, spyware hides in your system so it can go undetected while it finds your valuable data. This may include credit card or social security numbers in an attempt to steal your identity.

Antivirus software is built to identify these types of malware, and in many cases, automatically remove them. Antivirus software uses both generic and specific heuristics to detect behaviors and techniques that match malware definitions. Some systems alert users to take action to remove threats.

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What is Endpoint Security Software?

In case you’re unfamiliar, let’s start with what “endpoint” means. An endpoint is any device utilized by an end-user, usually in a corporate setting. This commonly includes desktop PCs, workstations, tablets, smartphones, servers and anything else that can connect to the internet. Endpoint security protects the devices within a company via a central management portal.

Symantec Endpoint Security Screenshot

Many endpoint security systems provide an easy-to-use interface from which to customize your level of security.

Most endpoint security software on the market today contain antivirus capabilities equal to what AV software can provide. However, endpoint security systems emphasize protection against internal threats as well. For instance, endpoint protection provides administrators with device control which allows only certain devices to be connected to an endpoint. An admin might let a USB mouse connect while disabling a USB hard drive. This is to prevent employees from stealing large amounts of valuable data. This data could be used to damage your company’s reputation or sold to the competition.

Endpoint security also focuses on remote control of your devices. System administrators typically have access to all company devices through endpoint security software. This need has developed over the years as companies get larger and utilize more technology than your IT staff can manage on an individual basis. Additionally, more employees today are able to work remotely than ever before and offices are becoming more spread out.

With devices so far apart, keeping their software systems up to date is a major challenge. Some of the biggest cyberattacks targeted weaknesses in operating systems that the original developers already discovered and patched. But of course, if you neglect to patch your own system, you’re left vulnerable. Endpoint protection’s central security management allows your system administrator to deploy patch updates to all computers at once, greatly reducing the staff necessary for this task compared to if you were using standard AV software.

For a comprehensive list of the features and capabilities endpoint security systems provide, see our requirements checklist.

Get our Endpoint Security Software Requirements Template

Key Differences

Choosing to implement endpoint security vs endpoint antivirus becomes a little easier after understanding what each system does and the benefits offered. However, there are still a few key differences to discuss.

A chart comparing endpoint security software and antivirus software.

1. Endpoint security software is aimed at enterprises

While enterprise virus protection software exists, endpoint security software is built exclusively with organizations in mind. Antivirus software typically deals with devices on an individual basis. This means threat-detection alerts will only be available on the device affected. To resolve the issue, users will also likely need in-person access to the affected machine.

However, with endpoint security, a system administrator can monitor and solve device issues remotely. Endpoint security software provides an administrator portal through which he or she can configure and monitor company devices. This is not a standard among antivirus software products.

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2. Endpoint security software protects against internal threats

This was mentioned in the definition above but merits a header to itself. Did you know over half of all cyberattacks are perpetrated by company insiders? Most antivirus software vendors do little if anything to protect your data from those who access it every day.

Endpoint security vendors provide a comprehensive suite of tools to prevent data loss. These tools include data access protocols which ensure that only authorized employees access certain data. They also include measures to encrypt data so thieves cannot access stolen information.

Screenshot of Kaspersky Endpoint Security

Endpoint protection software allows users to set allowances based on file extension.

3. Endpoint security solutions are customizable to fit your unique needs

This point goes along with the last one, as system administrators can block certain applications. For instance, if you’re worried about your employees downloading files laden with malware, you can block torrenting applications to prevent them from accessing such files. Endpoint security also includes web filtering. This enables your system administrators to block websites known to trick users into downloading harmful software.

System administrators can also set up policies to manage which employees are able to gain access to privileged information. But in opposition to this, overrides may be put in place so higher-ups can quickly retrieve important information. Furthermore, overrides come with auditing tools to prevent abuse.

Which Solution is Right For Your Business?

Considering everything above, it’s looking like endpoint protection products provide the most capability between the two systems. However, more capability doesn’t always mean that one system will be better for your business over another. In fact, purchasing an overly complex system that you won’t end up using can actually end up costing you money without providing enough benefits. Consider the following when choosing which type of solution to invest in:

Number of Users

One of the biggest benefits of endpoint protection is its ability to protect many devices from a central hub. But if only a couple people use internet-connected devices, it might be advantageous to choose antivirus software. This is especially true if your employees are pretty tech-savvy and you trust them to maintain their systems and updates. However, if trust is an issue, we encourage you to keep reading.

Remote Employees

If your employees work from home or you have several offices, endpoint security software may be beneficial. Even if you don’t have many employees, the distance between them could make it impossible to manage their devices in person. Endpoint security makes it possible for your system administrator to access the device remotely and solve any issues an employee may have.

Information Value

If there’s any reason why someone with access to your company devices would steal information, an endpoint security system is highly recommended. Some businesses house confidential information that could hurt clients. There’s also information that could damage your business reputation and information that could be sold to the competition. As you’ve read above, internal attacks are a major threat to businesses. In these situations, antivirus software just won’t cut it. To fully protect your information from those closest to it, you’ll need endpoint security software.

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Bottom Line

Ultimately, a good endpoint security system should encapsulate all the functions of antivirus software while also protecting against internal threats. Endpoint protection software also provides centralized security management, which is a highly valuable asset at the enterprise level. If you think endpoint security software is the right solution for you, make sure to check out our in-depth comparison report of the top systems on the market.

Which solution will you be choosing for your business? Let us know by leaving a comment down below!

Kim O'ShaughnessyEndpoint Antivirus vs Endpoint Security: A Comprehensive Comparison of the Difference Between Them

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