EDR vs Antivirus: What You Need to Know

While antivirus and endpoint detection and response solutions aim to prevent endpoint security threats, they do it in very different ways.

A company's endpoints must be effectively protected to be part of its overall cybersecurity plan. While antivirus (AV) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions aim to prevent endpoint security threats, they do it in very different ways.

As an advanced alternative to traditional antivirus software, EDR is quickly becoming the new standard. For decades, companies have put their faith in antivirus software as a panacea for enterprise security problems. In contrast, the limitations of "legacy" antivirus have become evident as the sophistication and prevalence of malware threats have expanded over the last decade. Considering these shortcomings of antivirus, some companies have rethought the problems with enterprise security and developed novel approaches to fixing them.

What sets EDR apart from Antivirus software? Can you explain how and why EDR is superior to AV? Find out how these options vary and which will serve your company best.

What Are the Differences Between EDR and Antivirus?

You must know the distinctions between EDR and "legacy" antivirus to protect your company from malicious software.

What Characteristics Does an Antivirus Have?

Virus protection software is the "bare minimum" in endpoint security. Antivirus software is designed to scan a computer's files and operating system in search of and delete malicious software, including viruses, worms, and Trojans.

In conventional antivirus systems, signatures are the backbone of the database. Malware hashes or rules specifying which properties the file must exhibit are potential components of these signatures. Metadata such as the file's type, size, and other attributes can also be used to identify malicious software.

Some anti-malware scanners can verify the authenticity of crucial system files and conduct rudimentary heuristic analysis on active processes. As the daily influx of new malware samples began to overwhelm AV providers' abilities to maintain up-to-date databases, several AV systems began to include these post-infection tests.

Some providers have attempted to augment antivirus with other services like firewall control, data encryption, process allow and block lists, and additional "suite" features in light of escalating threats and the waning efficacy of the antivirus approach. Solutions of this type sometimes referred to collectively as "EPP" (Endpoint Protection Platforms), continue to rely fundamentally on signatures.

In What Ways Does EDR Excel?

EDR collects data from endpoints and uses enhanced procedures to detect risks, including tracking down an attack's source and stopping its propagation. "It includes not only the automated monitoring and detection of threats on the endpoint but also a combination of autonomous and manual investigation, remediation, and response," explains VIPRE.

While blocking malicious files is a vital feature, it is crucial to note that not all recent threats are file-based, which is something effective EDRs take into account. Necessary for threat hunting, incident response, and digital forensics, proactive EDRs provide functionality not present in antivirus, such as automated reaction and extensive visibility into what file modifications, process creations, and network connections have occurred on the endpoint.

The following table provides a high-level comparison of the features offered by EDR and Antivirus solutions.

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

Antivirus (AV)

Real-time threat detection and monitoring enabled by behavior analytics. 

Signature-based recognition of known threats.

Data collection and analysis to identify threat patterns and warn organizations of potential hazards.

Scheduled or periodic screening of protected devices to identify known threats. 

Forensic features help determine what transpired during a security incident. 

Removal of fundamental viruses (worms, trojans, malware, adware, spyware, etc.)

Isolation and quarantine of suspect or infected objects, frequently utilizing sandboxes. 

Warnings regarding potentially harmful sites.

 They have automated removal or remediation of specific threats.


 The Demand for EDR Is Increasing, Considering the Constraints of AV

Although antivirus is crucial to endpoint security, it can't stop advanced attacks. Antivirus software has been unable to keep up with the evolving nature of threats affecting businesses for several reasons.

As was mentioned earlier, the daily influx of new malware samples is too vast for signature authors to handle – these authors are only humans. Since AV solutions will inevitably miss some of these samples, businesses should prepare for the possibility that they could encounter a threat that cannot be neutralized by antivirus software alone.

Second, threat actors can typically avoid detection by antivirus signatures without making significant changes to their software. Malware developers have learned to produce polymorphic malware, so named because it can change its properties to evade detection by signatures. While modifying a file's hash may be easy, internal strings can also be randomly generated, obfuscated, and encrypted in each infection variant.

Finally, financially-motivated threat actors like ransomware operators have progressed beyond file-based malware attacks. Human-operated ransomware attacks with "double-extortion" features like Maze, Ryuk, and others may start with compromised or brute-forced credentials or exploit RCE (remote code execution) vulnerabilities. Still, they can compromise systems and result in the loss of intellectual property through data exfiltration without being detected by antivirus signatures.

How EDR and Antivirus Can Join Forces

Assuming that the endpoint will be compromised at some point, EDR was developed to prepare for such an eventuality. While antivirus software can prevent many threats, if it stops working, your company will be in the dark about what's occurring on the endpoint. Your security staff won't have quick access to fix any problems that may have arisen.

Despite their limitations, antivirus solutions can be helpful complements to EDR, and most EDRs will include some aspect of signature and hash-based blocking as part of a "defense-in-depth" approach.

The benefits of basic blocking of known malware, which business security teams may take advantage of, can be combined with the advanced features that EDRs offer by integrating antivirus engines into a more efficient EDR solution. Once a threat has breached the defenses and infected the endpoint, an EDR system goes to work by:

  • Alerting security teams that the endpoint has been compromised.
  • Taking immediate, automatic measures, such as isolating the endpoint, to prevent further damage.
  • Assisting the security team in examining the incident by providing any necessary forensic information.
  • Containing and mitigating the danger by providing security personnel with the necessary remote control solutions.

As technology continues to permeate all aspects of running a business, the organizations' virtual borders continue to grow at a dizzying rate. Traditional antivirus software cannot provide enough security for a vast and ever-growing digital perimeter. Here is where EDR security systems come into play and are crucial to protecting the online border. They offer centralized protection and keep tabs on potential dangers to any device connected to the network. It provides more robust and comprehensive security for your digital network, even as those who seek to disrupt it become more sophisticated.

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