The Biggest Risks of Client-Side Scanning

The Biggest Risks of Client-Side Scanning

by Jessica Chapman

For businesses, the only way to see if their network has been breached is through regular scanning. Based on the information discovered in these scans, they can fix vulnerabilities to make sure attackers are unable to get in again.

However, many businesses are unsure about the exact risks involved when it comes to scanning. While they know that cybercriminals can use malware designed to target specific vulnerabilities and steal data, what other potential risks do they face?

There has been a long-standing debate among businesses and security specialists as to whether or not client-side scanning should be allowed in enterprise environments. At one end of the spectrum, some argue that there is simply too high a risk of disrupting operations, while at the other end, others say banning such scanning will make enterprises vulnerable to attack.

What actually happens During the Client-side Scan

Many people think that some activities on their system get blocked whenever they try to run anti-malware software. In reality, though, there are many different files that these tools will check in the background when you run them, without your knowledge.

This means that while running anti-malware software, activities like emailing and web browsing can be disrupted. The risk with this is that cybercriminals can use malware designed to exploit specific vulnerabilities to steal data or gain entry into the network despite these scans.

Now, when it comes to cyber security, ransomware is one of the biggest threats today. Almost every major company has either been infected by it themselves or knows someone who has.

Ransomware is a type of malware that holds on to files and demands payment (in most cases, you’d be ordered to pay the ransom in Bitcoins) before they will be released again. This is usually done by exploiting vulnerabilities in apps running on the system.

What makes ransomware such a big threat now, however, is that it doesn't require much effort to implement or use. Attacks are mostly carried out through spam email campaigns and can often be stopped if employees simply follow basic security protocols and avoid common mistakes that can lead to cyberattacks.

Client-side scanning has recently given cybercriminals new options for carrying out ransomware attacks, though. Because Anti-malware software attempts to protect your computer by checking for malicious programs all the time, malware developers can still using this against you. 

This can be achieved by encrypting files before they are even detected, which means users never realize their files have been compromised until it's too late. This leaves many companies with the decision of whether or not regular anti-malware scans are worth the risks associated with them.

Server-side or Client-side Scanning?

The main reason organizations still use anti-malware software is that it saves time and resources compared to not having it at all. However, moving towards server-side scanning offers some benefits that might make its usage worthwhile in the future.

  • Server-Side Scanning 

Regularly checking files on servers instead of on individual computers has many benefits for businesses today. Not only do cyber criminals usually target vulnerabilities in applications running on your system, but they also base their malware on what programs you have installed as well. This means any ransomware attack will result in encrypted files being held hostage across the entire network rather than just on a single system.

  • Client-Side Scanning 

Although it does make files more vulnerable to attack, anti-malware software on individual computers can still be helpful for three main reasons:

  1. It keeps you protected from threats that target vulnerabilities in programs running on the system. 
  2. It keeps you protected from attackers using social engineering methods to steal data from your computer. 
  3. It allows you to prevent cybercriminals from infecting other users through file sharing at home or work.

The Dangers of Client-side Scanning with Email and Web Browsing

In light of the increasing threat of ransomware, many businesses have been taking steps towards banning certain types of computer activity when running anti-malware scans. But this may not be enough to protect you in all situations, particularly when it comes to emailing and browsing the web.

  • Email Attachments 

There are several different types of email-borne ransomware attacks. The most common one is where malicious attachments are used to download malware onto your system. This software then locks down files with an encryption key that cybercriminals provide by sending you payment instructions.

  • Browsing the Web 

A second way that anti-malware scans can fail is by putting you at risk of being attacked while visiting websites on your browser. A perfect example is if you have already been infected with ransomware but have not realized it yet. Cybercriminals can use exploit kits to distribute their malware without requiring any user interaction or having programs installed on your PC first. Unfortunately, simply visiting a website can be enough to download and run this type of malware onto your system without you knowing. This is because these types of infections use drive-by downloads to install their malicious code automatically.

As cybercriminals become more sophisticated with their attacks, it is clear that stopping the spread of ransomware will require not just client-side scanning but a comprehensive strategy that includes restricting certain computer activities and implementing server-side scanning with software designed for continuous protection. This way, organizations will always have a chance to stop malware from encrypting their first files before the malware spreads through the entire network.

To make sure your organization does not fall victim to any ransomware attack, you need to know which strategies are the most effective for keeping your data safe. This includes:

  • Backing up data and storing it offline
  • Using server-side scanning for all endpoints
  • Controlling what users can do while using their computers
  • Restricting dangerous file types, such as those with extensions which include: .exe; .vbs; .js; .psc1; .hta 
  • Substituting custom executables with safer alternatives, such as HTML applications

You can also prevent malicious email attachments from being executed by your computer by blocking Windows' default behavior of launching them automatically. This setting is called "safe mode" and can be enabled from the registry editor or group policy. It is also recommended to review the contents of every message before opening a downloaded attachment.

Can't I just do Anti-virus scanning on my Desktop?

The "traditional" method of protecting your home computer was installing an anti-virus, firewall, and anti-spyware software onto each system. This made it possible to quickly scan for malware infections out of the box without having to wait for updates or schedule scans later on through a separate service. 

Unfortunately, this type of solution is starting to fall short since cybercriminals are targeting weaknesses in your programs rather than your computer's hardware or operating system. For example, cybercriminals have been known to take advantage of vulnerabilities in Microsoft Word that allow them to steal sensitive data from users' computers. This makes it easier for them because they can target everyone simultaneously at once via email attachments.

It is important to use the latest patches for your software, but it won't always keep you completely safe. For instance, there are also vulnerabilities in ActiveX controls, which can allow malware to run on your system without having to use Office or Internet Explorer. 

Since cybercriminals constantly change their methods of attack, this means that any anti-virus solution worth its salt will require updates on a regular basis to stay effective. Therefore, it is important to consider the total time and effort it will take you to maintain your malware protection software and its costs.

The Bottom Line

Client-side scanning is a useful way to protect users from threats that target vulnerabilities in programs running on their systems. However, it also makes these files more vulnerable to attack and leaves your system exposed when executed. Therefore, it would be best not to rely on client-side scanning alone.

About the Author

Jessica Chapman is Chicago-based paper writing pro who is regarded as one of the best paper writing services provider. She loves, traveling, sports and politics. To get her services, just type, write my assignment and she’ll get back with all the necessary details to get you sorted.

November 3, 2021
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