Security vendors leaving old-school malware detection behind

Signature-based virus scanning losing prominence as use of behavior-based detection and reputation analysis grows

Step 1: Identify a computer virus specimen. Step 2: Create a "signature" to detect and eradicate the virus, and push the signature file out to a computer. Step 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2 again and again for new viruses and their variants.

That's how virus fighting has been done for decades in the antivirus software industry. But now some of the industry's biggest players say this methodology will be in decline in 2009 due to the rapidly multiplying malware epidemic.

Signature-based scanning is "static, old school," says Jerry Egan, director of product management at Symantec's security technology and response division. With 12,000 new malware specimens each day to detect and eradicate, "we think that technique is reaching the end of its useful life," Egan says.

Another complication is that malware is now so artfully designed, "it spreads to 20 or 30 machines before it mutates," Egan points out. That means "your neighbor has one variant and you have another. The effectiveness of each signature has gone down."

While Symantec isn't quite ready to jettison signature-based detection, the coming year is going to see a shift toward other antimalware techniques, including behavior-based protection, heuristics such as examining good and bad file characteristics, reputational analysis, and even whitelisting and blacklisting to allow or disallow code to run, says Egan.

"The shift will be to a hybrid model that employs these," Egan says about Symantec's product development going forward.

The view about signature-based detection is not so different at Trend Micro and Kaspersky Lab.

"Our experience is that there has been a 700% increase this year over last year alone in malware," says Peter Beardmore, senior product marketing manager at Kaspersky Lab. "This is absolutely challenging the traditional approach to signatures."

Kaspersky sees its detection model shifting, too. "Rather than the pattern of code, there's a pattern of calls made in that code," says Beardmore. "It might be calling the printer or registry," so the malware would be identified through more behavior-based methods.

Kaspersky will also be adding to all its desktop products the whitelisting and blacklisting approach it tried in its consumer products last summer through a partnership with Bit9. These technologies seem more adapted to the desktop right now, so Kaspersky hasn't pinpointed a strategy for this use in servers yet.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags malwaremcafeekaspersky labs

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ellen Messmer

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?