Email Antivirus: Working and Advantages

Email is an important part of any business or organisation. There are hundreds of inbound and outbound emails coming and going through the email servers of an organisation. So the question is, how can we make sure that these emails don’t carry viruses along with them? The answer is email antiviruses. Email antivirus is software that scan all the incoming emails coming through your inbound email server before opening them. They can assure that no viruses are coming along with your emails.

Advantages of Email Antivirus

Email antivirus

Computer viruses are malicious softwares that can cause harm to your computer through corruption or stealing of data. Viruses can enter your computer through various means such as through the internet via downloads or through malicious usb drives or CDs or through Emails. While there are antivirus softwares that take care of viruses through usb drives or cds, you should have an extra layer of protection by deploying email antiviruses to secure the computers from viruses attached in emails.

Email antiviruses also provides security from spam emails which can flood your businesses’ mail servers not allowing important emails from being received. Spam emails are emails which are sent to your mailboxes with commercial intent without your permissions. They can cause important emails to be ignored and will also increase the disk space usag of the mailboxes and email archives. Antivirus email can also scan for existing threats on your computer and eliminate them which will save your computer from future attacks.  If you are using a cloud email service, there are email antivirus cloud softwares which can help you.

Apart from viruses and spam emails, Email Antivirus scanner also help in avoiding phishing emails. Phishing is a type of internet attack in which the attacker claims to be a trusted website which requires your sensitive information. Any information entered in the phishing websites are sent to the attacker. For example, the attacker can claim to be sending the emails from your bank which will contain a link which will look like your bank’s website but as soon as you will type your username and password to sign in, the details will be sent to the attacker, allowing them to have full access to your bank account without your permission.

Today, viruses are more evolved and can be bound with any kind of file which may seem normal to you but opening them will execute the virus along with the file. For example, you can receive a word document containing some professional data but if there is a virus attached to it, as soon as you will click on that word document, it will silently launch the virus in the background and while your computer is on, the virus can either corrupt your important files or send them to the attacker’s computer allowing them to have important confidential data about your businesses.  

How Email antivirus softwares identify viruses

Now that we know about the different kinds of viruses that an email antivirus can remove, the question arises that what if the antivirus deletes important virus free attachments thinking that it’s a virus? To answer this question, we must know how an email antivirus software distinguishes between safe and infected email attachments.

The process of identifying whether a file is a virus or not consists of three main steps. All of these methods have advanced over the years as the hardware and software have improved and thus makes sure that no infected files go unnoticed. But unfortunately, till date, there hasn’t been a single algorithm that can identify all kinds of threats at once. This is why antivirus in email cloud use all of the different methods listed below combined to be more efficient and have a good virus detection rate.

Signature Based Detection

A signature based intrusion detection system which is more commonly referred to as Intrusion detection system (IDS) is a type of algorithm which monitors the emails and the system for any kind of harmful activities and policy violations across computers around the globe. If any kind of harmful software is detected, it’s digital signature is stored in a shared database called Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system. This database collects malicious activities from multiple sources and uses filtering techniques to differentiate between malicious activities from false alarms. This database is then used by all of the computers with antivirus installed to compare files with malicious files in the database if identical signatures are found, the file is deemed harmful and is then cleared from the system.

Heuristic Based Detection

Heuristic Based Detection or heuristic analysis is often used along with Signature based detection and is the method in which antivirus email software identify similar characteristics between malware codes. It is used to detect viruses which haven’t been detected previously unlike the signature based detection. It can also detect new variants of previously detected viruses by analysing similar characteristics between the code to be analysed and previously detected malware using different types of decision rules or weighing methods. This is different from Signature based detection as it doesn’t rely on previously available statistical data.

Behavioral Based Detection

Behavioral Based Detection is similar to Heuristic based detection. In this process, the antivirus software identifies similar behavioral characteristics between malware codes when they are executed. If the file behaves like a malware, then it is deemed harmful. It is different from Heuristic based detection as in this method instead of analysing code, in this method the antivirus software analyses how the file behaves. It is effective against viruses which have intelligently masked harmful code which can’t be detected by Heuristic analysis.

Apart from these three main algorithms, email antivirus softwares also uses processes like

  • Sandbox Detection and
  • Machine learning

to detect malicious code within the email attachments or the emails themselves. Today, most of the operations in a business are being done digitally through computers and this has given rise to a new kind of theft: hacking. Hackers mainly use viruses to gain access to computers. To remain safe from hackers and viruses you must have safeguards in place. Having an Email antivirus software helps in having an extra line of defense against such attacks and will ensure that your business is safe from cyber attacks. If you don’t want to pay for an antivirus software, there are many free email antivirus softwares available too.

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