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You may know that F-Secure won the Best Protection Award – twice in a row. But if you’ve ever wondered about how we actually go about protecting our customers from malware, this post is for you. We do it by going deeper. Let me explain.
Traditional antivirus software looks at the outward characteristics of files to see if the characteristics match those of previously seen malware files. If they match, the antivirus program knows to block the file.
For this system to work, antivirus labs need to have a sample of the malware file in order to analyze its characteristics so they know exactly what they need to block.
This is a very effective method for blocking most malware seen to date, and this is how F-Secure protects you from existing malware we already know about.
Of course, it takes time for antivirus labs to receive a malware sample and analyze it so we can effectively block it. That means brand new malware created just in the past few days or weeks that we haven’t yet had a chance to analyze, can get past traditional scanning systems.
Complicating the issue, cybercriminals who create malware nowadays are very clever at avoiding detection by antivirus programs. One way they do this is by creating new, different variants of their malware. These variants are still the same malware at the core, but they appear new and different on the outside. Like a criminal who dresses in disguise to avoid being recognized, the malware file is disguised to avoid detection by antivirus software. There are automated malware creation kits that do this for the cybercriminals, making it easy to spit out thousands of new variants.
To be able to protect from brand new malware, then, and to protect from all the new variants of existing malware, it is crucial for F-Secure’s software to be able to detect a malware file even before our Labs have ever received a sample of it.
So how do we block malware strains we’ve never seen? We examine not just a file’s outward characteristics, but we also monitor its behavior for suspicious activity. Like I said, malware can change in appearance and characteristics. But one thing never changes: Malware always does malicious things. So if we’re not sure if a file is malicious or not, we watch to see how the program behaves.
We call our behavioral analysis technology DeepGuard. DeepGuard observes a program’s behavior and prevents potentially harmful actions from successfully completing. This way, we can block even brand new malware files that haven’t yet been analyzed. And we can stop malicious files that are disguised as something else.
When the user opens a file, any file, DeepGuard instantaneously checks for suspicious behavior, and if it finds something, it will block the program from launching. Since some malware hide their malicious behavior until after the program launches, DeepGuard still continues monitoring programs while they are running, watching for and blocking suspicious actions.
DeepGuard is a feature of F-Secure’s products, working in tandem with our other protection layers (browsing protection, traditional signature scanning, file reputation analysis, and prevalence rate checking) to provide the very best protection. Our newest version, DeepGuard 5 with exploit protection, has already been rolled out, so customers with the latest versions of F-Secure products are already benefiting from the latest technology.
And that’s how we protect you.
We wouldn't be F-Secure without the talented and passionate researchers in our Labs. And today we'd like you to meet one whose inquisitive nature has driven him to become an inventor - and a prolific one at that. In his 14-year career with F-Secure, Jarno Niemelä has racked up an impressive 20 patents to his name and has filed 100 patent applications in total. His achievements recently won the title of "Salaried Inventor of 2014" from a group of Finnish inventors' organizations. I sat down to chat with Jarno about where he gets his ideas, and his advice for others. What area do your inventions focus on? I mostly focus on methods to help detect malware on a system, or methods of preventing malware from entering the system in the first place. How do your ideas come about? Inventions mostly happen in the evening when I'm not at work, and not even trying to think about it. I'll be working on some problem at work, and usually a day or two later, when I'm doing something totally unrelated on my own time, it hits me. I understand the problem and come up with a solution. The gym is a really good place for inventions. What motivates you to keep on inventing new solutions? Inventions just happen, pretty much. Whenever I'm able to define a problem, I'm usually always able to come up with a solution. I am lucky to be researching in areas with problems that others have not yet solved. I'll be honest, I don't really like patents that much personally. The fact is though, that companies without patents would pretty much be at the mercy of the competitors. So in my view, patents are basically company self defense. Patents keep things in balance. Were you curious about things growing up? I've always kind of been inventive. You cannot learn to become an inventor, it's either something that's in your nature or it's not. And then you need to hone the talent and learn how to work within the patent framework. Another thing that is very important is good basic education and knowledge about the field. I owe a lot to Metropolia University of Applied Sciences where I studied for my engineering degree. Do you have any advice for people who have this inventive nature and are interested in filing patents? It all starts from defining and understanding the problem. Without a thorough understanding of the problem, you can't come up with a solution. Also, when it comes to patents, it's important to know what has previously been done in your area, and be clear in exactly how your invention is different from those. Otherwise your patent can be easily rejected by the patent examiner. And finally, patents are a long process so you need patience. It can take three to five years to get a patent approved. So this is not for hasty people. What is that rock you're holding? It's my trophy, a piece of Finnish bedrock! Inventors are the bedrock of new products. Do you have any certain goals for your inventions? Before I retire I would like to have at least 50 patents to my name. - Well, he's off to a great start. Congratulations, Jarno! Follow Jarno on Twitter
The EFF has put together a handy guide on choosing the right VPN -- virtual private network -- that explains in simple terms why you'd want to use this type of software. "It enables a computer to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if it is directly connected to the private network—benefiting from the functionality, security, and management policies of the private network," the guide explains. It goes on to clarify the three reasons people typically encrypt their data. Most people already using a VPN do so for the two reasons: They connect to a corporate network remotely or are attempting avoid Internet censorship in countries like China and Iran. But even if you're not using a VPN for business or digital freedom, there is a simple reason why you'd want to use a VPN. "You can also use a commercial VPN to encrypt your data as it travels over a public network, such as the Wi-Fi in an Internet café or a hotel," the EFF writes. I put together this flow chart that explains whether you're a candidate for this third reason to use a VPN: “A good number of open wi-fi providers take the time to tell you in their T&C that there are inherent risks with wireless communications and suggest using a VPN,” F-Secure Security Advisor Sean Sullivan said after we conducted a public Wi-Fi experiment. “So if you don’t take it from me, take it from them.” And even if you aren't on a public network, you may want a VPN to protect you from ubiquitous tracking elements like a perma-cookie. You can try our super simple Freedome VPN solution -- which also includes tracking protection and the ability to set up virtual locations -- free. [Image via Trevor Cummings | Flickr]
First Finland, next the world! We knew it all along, and now it's confirmed: F-Secure Freedome, our super-simple security and online privacy app, has won the Best Mobile Service in Finland award. Freedome took away the award in the Utility and Infotainment category. Freedome's product manager, Paivi, and Samu, head of Consumer Security at F-Secure, were on hand to accept the award. "It's great to see F-Secure, a 25-plus-year-old company, competing among startups --- and winning, thanks to Freedome's fresh and user-friendly design," says Paivi. The competition was organized by Teleforum and The Federation of Finnish Technology Industry together with key industry players such as Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, IBM and others. 110 mobile services were evaluated in 11 categories. Check out Freedome for yourself to see what the buzz is about!