Dell and Cylance Bring Advanced Threat Protection to SMBs

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted November 20, 2015

Dell has partnered with Cylance, a threat-prevention security software startup, to level the playing field between small businesses and increasingly sophisticated malware.

This week, the companies announced that they are integrating Cylance's technology into Dell Data Security solutions in early 2016. While an enterprise-grade solution is in the works, small businesses can acquire the protection in two ways: on Dell commercial PCs with bundled security, and through Dell's standalone security management suite, which also protects PCs purchased from rival vendors, assured Hansen.

Instead of the traditional signature-based approach to security software, Cylance employs advanced artificial intelligence to unmask dangerous malware. Incidentally, Dell Ventures is one of Cylance's financial backers and contributed in part to a $42 million round of funding this summer.

Data Security: Gaps in Anti-virus Protection

Downloading anti-virus software is a tried-and-true method of keeping malware off a Windows PC. When it works properly, it acts as a big, imposing security guard, blocking nefarious code at the door and preventing it from wreaking havoc and pilfering important files and data.

The trouble with most of today's anti-virus products is that they're well-suited for spotting known and conspicuous malware, but let they let their guard down around zero-day and other seemingly innocuous code that generally fly under the radar.

small business threat protection: malware

Large organizations have the resources to hire teams of data security specialists with the expertise to spot the subtleties of unusual application and network activity, investigate the cause, and ultimately purge their IT systems of the offending malware. Small and midsized businesses (SMBs), for the most part, have been out of luck, according to Brett Hansen, executive director of data security solutions at Dell.

"Small businesses need help with security," Hansen said. Most small business owners will invest in antivirus software mistakenly believing that it provides adequate protection. In reality, they're taking a big gamble.

According to Cylance testing, traditional antivirus products can detect advanced threats like with "at best 50 percent efficacy," Hansen told Small Business Computing. "We haven't seen true innovation in malware protection in the last decade," he said.

In effect, emerging unscathed from a run-in with today's dangerous new malware variants is a coin toss. Combined with the endless variety of malware—"the number of new threats is in the hundreds of thousands every day," said Hansen—an infection is often not a matter of if but when.

To improve detection rates and to protect businesses of all sizes, Dell and Cylance partnered to offer AI-powered advanced threat protection.

Artificial Intelligence Peers into Malware's DNA

Cylance's technology employs artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to unmask malware that evades traditional, signature-based anti-virus software. Instead of looking for outward, tell-tale signs of malware, Cylance's technology digs deeper into malware code, or what Hansen referred to as its "DNA."

The company picked apart "tens of millions of malware through the AI," Hansen said. The result is a fast, lightweight, and intelligence-driven way of evaluating apps, both good and bad, in milliseconds.

Cylance's AI looks at up to 15 million factors—DNA markers of sorts—that set harmless and dangerous software code apart. On a very basic level, most malware share common traits. Coders can get clever and change the contours of that code, but they can't hide its true nature from Cylance's AI.

Able to analyze malware down to its most fundamental levels, and its effect on a device, the Cylance technology boasts a 99 percent malware detection rate (according to both companies). And it gets smarter as it devours more malware, ensuring that new, never-before-seen types of malware don't slip through.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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