More than two-thirds of companies have seen the number of infections due to malicious software increase over the past year, according to a survey published this week.
It's understandable, then, that companies are not enamored of their ubiquitous defense: antivirus and anti-malware solutions. The survey found that while 98 percent of the 564 companies interviewed used malware defenses, only 57 percent of IT managers considered the defense effective, according to the Ponemon Institute report.
The survey, commissioned by end-point security firm Lumension, found that companies did not deploy extensive protections against software-borne attacks. After antivirus, the top defenses were desktop firewalls, adopted by 60 percent of companies; host-based intrusion detection, adopted by 57 percent; and data encryption, deployed on 56 percent of desktops.
Both expense and impact on productivity seem to hinder the deployment of new defenses, says Edward Brice, vice president of worldwide marketing for Lumension.
"There is this notion -- and maybe it is a tried-and-true rule -- that if I can bring more effective security in, I'm going to impact my underlying organizational productivity," Brice says. "This is the reality that IT has to deal with."
About half of the companies expected IT operating costs to increase this year, with about 59 percent of those respondent saying that malware was a significant factor in the increase.
Yet, both the economy and threats have companies adopting technologies that are easier to manage and cost less overall. Rather than trying to stitch together solutions for specific needs, IT managers are increasingly looking for tightly integrated solutions that allow them to better monitor their network's security status.
"Companies are consolidating point technologies onto a unified and common platform," Brice says. "You are getting very effective technology that is pre-integrated, so you are reducing the number of consoles, you are reducing the amount of integration, you are reducing the amount of training that you have to do, and most importantly, you are improving the visibility you have over a distributed endpoint environment."
The environment means that technologies that have gotten a bad name for themsevleves in the past, such as application whitelisting, will have another chance to protect the desktop, says Brice.
"There are technologies out there, such as whitelisting, that have improved dramatically," he says.
That doesn't mean that IT groups get to throw away the antivirus. It will just come as part of a more complete package.