Despite all the antivirus programs globally, the scope of malware attacks doesn’t seem to slow down on the Internet and, from there, to your computers. What makes some viruses undetectable even by the best antimalware software? The two things I can see are: constantly changing polymorphic virus and the inability of antivirus vendors to develop a solid technology to deal with the unknown virus.
What is a Polymorphic Virus
It is general knowledge that malware comes with variations, so antimalware software solutions cannot detect them. When it is seen, the antimalware software solution blocks that malware. Only a particular interpretation is banned because antimalware software cannot guess the malware will come back – in a different variation. If it is found, it is blacklisted by companies monitoring malware. Most antivirus relies on these blacklists to protect your computer or another device. It is the main reason why antimalware cannot be 100% effective.
A polymorphic virus is a piece of code characterized by the following behavior – Encryption, Self-multiplication, and changing of one or more components of itself so that it remains elusive. It is designed to avoid detection as it is capable of creating modified copies of itself.
Thus, a polymorphic virus is a self-encrypted malicious software that tends to change itself in more than one way before multiplying onto the same computer or computer networks. Since it changes its components appropriately and is encrypted, the polymorphic virus can be said to be one of the intelligent malware that is hard to detect. Because by the time your antivirus detects it, the virus has already multiplied after changing one or more of its components (morphing into something else).
The difference between a regular virus and the polymorphic virus is that it changes its components to look like a different software before multiplying. This morphing activity makes it hard to be detected.
Read: Which was the first Windows virus?
Polymorphic virus protection
We’ll need next-generation antimalware. Something that can think on its own. Maybe I am suggesting an antimalware solution based on artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence and lots of studies will help such antimalware identify and remove polymorphic viruses.
The current forms of antivirus work either on blocking or allowing programs. We’ve already talked about how this virus can change itself before multiplying. In this scenario, antivirus based on blocklists are not much use because they will be able to detect only the variations that are blacklisted while the morphed form of the virus continues to infect files and other computers.
Whitelisting-based antimalware is better but tedious. Since with whitelisting, you will have to allow every program you wish to run on your computer. The polymorphic virus can’t do anything as you won’t authorize it until confused. The whitelist-based antimalware is not for users of beginner level as they may approve everything with a fear of blocking essential operating system services. But if the allowed listing is used correctly, this variety of viruses won’t be able to run because you never authorized it – even after it morphs itself.
In my personal opinion, none of the above-listed two methods are good enough. There should be something that studies the programs onboard computers and sees how they behave. In the case of suspicious activities, the program auto blocks it or informs you that something is fishy. You can then take a deeper look into it – to see if it is part of some program you installed or an unwanted malware.
There is some behavior-based antimalware software, but they too study pre-defined behavior and look for pre-programmed activities. You can use them in addition to whitelisting approach to prevent the polymorphic virus.
Now read Evolution of Malware – How it all began!
What are the symptoms of polymorphic virus?
The list includes slower performance, ads popping up on the screen, programs launching on their own, file duplication, and installing unknown programs. If you see anything that looks unusual and something not because you did something, you need to scan your PC.