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Yes: Even Designated Audio/Video/Lighting Systems Need Protection

systems need protection

I had the pleasure of speaking with a local worship pastor at a large church in the area. As we discussed the new challenges (and opportunities) brought about by the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape, the topic of antivirus software surfaced. If you have had any experience on a church tech team, (or even if you have not), I am sure you can acknowledge the idea that it is possible for antivirus software to have an antagonistic effect on the performance of a system, even if while at the same time it is performing critical services. Another example would be designated AVL (Audio/Video/Lighting) systems used by church tech teams, which elevate the worship experience but also utilize heavy resources. These systems need protection.

As my pastor friend explained to me, smaller churches may have systems multi-tasking but by-and-large, the resource strains on these systems are so heavy that most computers perform a single task. The example he gave for his church included utilizing three Mac mini’s for video (ProPresenter), one Mac for recording (Pro Tools) another pc for running sound spectrum analysis, another pc simply for lighting, and finally a pc tasked for live stream recording. Given these separate-but-critical-duties assigned to perspective machines, I began to understand a tech team’s temptation of forgoing protection on their systems against malware and cyberattacks with dedicated endpoint security software, simply because of the “extra weight” of the software, even if the purpose of such software could prove critical. There is a huge risk to “running without the layers on.” Your church could catch a virus! But the day-to-day reality of time and resources limits us sometimes.

A related but separate a topic that surfaces daily in my conversations and consults is whether Macs can even get a virus in the by-and-large-Apple-worship-team-world?

The technologically-archaic notion that Macs cannot get viruses is simply false. Macs can and do get infected with malware, and our Thirtyseven4 Labs have seen a significant increase in the past 18 months. Macs may (for several reasons) be less likely to become infected than their Windows counterparts, but documented cyberattacks on these platforms are numerous.

And to address the idea that if antivirus software is necessary, it will hinder performance—I would like to counter that if properly installed and run, (trusted) antivirus software should have no effect or minimal effect on daily procedures. But grace should be given and appreciated to the overarching idea and purpose of ANTI-virus software—we must allow space/resources/time for it to do its job. With antivirus, as with life—there is no completely free lunch. But to run machines completely unprotected, even if operating at lightning speed, is careless and dangerous.

Due to the very nature of scanning, an av scan can be a system-intensive activity. Running a thorough, full-system scan while utilizing AVL software during worship production is probably not the wisest idea. However, industry leading solutions like Thirtyseven4 do offer the flexibility of various scan types (thorough scans, quick scans, scheduled scans, file specific scans). The variety of scans allow systems to be proactively protected while offering the flexibility of scans to take place during off hours.

Another question, and (depending on your software) complaint that I receive is about antivirus updates and their impact on performance. Should we run updates containing the latest virus definitions? Yes. (Just like running outside in cold temps, there are proactive measures that are prudent to take in caring for our bodies. The same is true for our machines. The latest updates provide the most current protection.) Will it affect your performance? I would say that depends on your provider.

Endpoint security solutions handle virus definition updates differently. With Thirtyseven4, we offer our customers daily, compacted, incremental updates. These immediate updates allow the virus databases files to remain small in nature and so when the updates are automatically downloaded and applied they offer no noticeable hit to the system performance. The flexibility of scheduling updates during off hours is also a possibility.

Professionally speaking, the need for antivirus software (even in a Mac world) on production systems is a necessity. The threats are real, and cybercriminals are continually evolving their strategies to attack systems on a more manual, targeted basis. Unfortunately, AVL systems are not void from their hit list.

I prefer walking and running in the summer without being weighed down with layers of clothes needed in winter, but even during the hot months, I lather up in sunscreen or wear a hat to protect against the sun. Regardless of the season, there is always some type of necessary protection. And the same is true with antivirus protection for our devices. Whether utilizing Macs or Windows machines and regardless of changes in the safety landscape, I’d rather be minimally impacted and healthy, than vulnerable and in cyber danger.

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Steven Sundermeier is the Owner of ThirtySeven4, a nationally-respected cyber security firm. You can visit his website at http://www.thirtyseven4.com/