Why Endpoints Shouldn't Rely Entirely On Scanning

3 min. read

Antivirus has undoubtedly been the default solution for protecting endpoints for decades. Most antivirus solutions will scan the endpoint, cross-referencing files against a signature database of known threats. While adequate for identifying known threats, scanning technology cannot keep up with the advanced threats targeting endpoints today. Below are the four primary reasons why scanning shouldn’t be your first line of defense when securing endpoints.

1. Reliance on Signature Database

In the current threat landscape, malware can change at breakneck speed, meaning signature databases need continuous updates of the most recent signatures to avoid becoming outdated. Like scanning, these updates can reduce system performance. Antivirus solutions often allow users to schedule updates for more convenient times, but this can leave databases outdated for extended periods, during which threats can easily bypass and evade detection by scanners.

Get the XDR for Dummies Guide


2. Identifies Only Known Threats

Scanners are limited to what is already known about a sample. Anything unknown – such as zero-day threats or polymorphic malware – goes undetected. Attackers often make slight modifications to existing threats that let them bypass detection from scanning engines, resulting in polymorphic malware, or variants. These variants require entirely new signatures in order to be detected, rendering scanners useless. Creating new signatures is labor-intensive, and cannot keep pace with the rate at which attackers can modify threats.

3. Performance Impact

Antivirus solutions periodically scan for malicious files or threats, regardless of system activity at the time. This consumes significant resources, eating into disk space and slowing down devices. To minimize impact, users often bypass or reschedule scans, change scanning frequency, or deactivate antivirus entirely. While any of these actions can temporarily avoid performance degradation, they leave systems vulnerable to malware that previous scans may not have detected. Additionally, periodic scanning increases the risk of missing malware introduced to the system between scans.

4. Files at Rest Not Seen as Threats

Malicious files pose no actual threat to a system until they are executed. Antivirus solutions scan for potentially malicious files, greatly impacting performance searching for things that are not threatening the system.

The best endpoint security solutions use a multi-method approach to malware prevention, protecting against the evolving threat landscape and addressing the concerns antivirus scanners present, all without relying on signatures. They can integrate with cloud-based threat analysis service to prevent known, unknown and zero-day threats, focusing on malware as it becomes active, rather than consuming system resources for dormant activity.

When a piece of malware is identified, the cloud-based service automatically creates and shares preventive measures to all protected endpoints. This ensures the endpoints can prevent known or newly identified malware without requiring periodic updates. However, security teams can still optionally scan for malware files as needed for compliance or security assurance.

XDR, or extended detection and response, is an innovative approach to endpoint security. XDR can collect virtually all data, such as network, cloud and endpoint data, recognizing that it’s not effective to investigate threats in isolated silos. XDR systems use machine learning, analytics, and automation to stitch together and derive insight from these sources, increasing security visibility and productivity compared to siloed security tools. The result is streamlined and accelerated investigations, reducing the time it takes to find, hunt, investigate and respond to any form of threat.

To learn more about Cortex XDR, the industry's first XDR platform that integrates data from any source to stop modern attacks, visit the product page.