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How Does an Antivirus Program Detect Malware?

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How Does an Antivirus Program Detect Malware?

With the internet being used more and more, there are some threats that can negatively affect people’s computers and their personal data. Although the image many people have in their head is of a vicious virus that destroys their data, the threats most people face are much more subtle.

One of the more major threats these days that antivirus software can solve is malware. If one wants to find antivirus software that can work for their computer’s needs, head over to TechTricksInside to see App & Software Reviews of the top programs.

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What Is Malware?
Malware is short for malicious software. It is software that is downloaded onto a computer that the computer user did not consent to. Thus malware can do a number of actions on a computer, such as stealing personal information or damage software on the computer.

What Will Malware Do?
Since malware programs differ, it depends on the type of malware to determine the danger it has to one’s computer. One form of malware is called spyware. Spyware is a program that will monitor the computer user’s activity. The goal of most spyware is to see what a user’s activity is and to record the passwords, usernames, and keystrokes of the user.

Other malware, particularly viruses and worms, are meant to replicate within a computer or computer network. Damage done to software is collateral since these programs are often only meant to replicate. Other malware is a direct connection to its programmer.

Known as zombieware, these pieces of malware will wait until it receives direct commands from its programmer. Often, zombieware will show up and have a life of its own on a computer; this is the computer programmer of the zombieware literally on one’s computer doing actions he or she wants to do.

Why Is Malware Made?
Computer programmers create malware to get information or, to be blunt, just to have fun. Criminals may use malware so they can get personal or financial information, while other programmers want to have fun and attack a stranger’s computer for the thrill of knowing they can do that.

What is interesting is more and more malware is being produced by governments. Governments across the world have always tried to spy and get information from each other. Malware has become one tool for many country’s intelligence communities.

How Does Antivirus Software Detect Malware?
There are three main methods an antivirus software can detect if there is malware on the computer. One method is called signature-detection.

All computer software, malicious or not, will have a signature of codes that give the software its existence. Antivirus software, which should always be updated, will have a database of software signatures that are known malware.

Running an antivirus scan on a computer will try to detect if there are any signatures that match known malware in the computer. The drawback of this method is that the malware’s signature has to be publicly known first.

When antivirus software updates, it adds what the industry has found to be existing malware onto the antivirus software database. So, signature-detection works when the first wave of malware attacks affect the public.

The second type of detection is called heuristic analysis. Heuristics refers to a method of computer analysis that puts speed over solving the issue completely. Heuristic antivirus scans will find bits or pieces of software signatures within a computer.

If a piece of software contains some signatures that are known malware, then the antivirus software will alert the user. This is a much quicker way to find any form of software that contains some of the signature codes of malware. It is also effective against viruses, since viruses will often replicate and have somewhat the same code as its predecessor.

For a crude example, say there is a known virus with a signature code 1234, but it has replicated to include 1234xy1. A signature-detection analysis would pick up 1234 virus, but not 1234xy1. A heuristic analysis would find 1234 and 1234xy1 since both viruses have similar, but not complete signatures.

The third way an antivirus program finds malware is simply watching behavior. An antivirus software, depending on how complex it is, can scan a computer regularly and see if a piece of software is behaving in a way that is deviant from the regular software running the computer.

Some forms of antivirus software will isolate the software, command the software to perform its full action, and then, if the software tries to commit a malicious act, will be honed in and signaled as malware by the antivirus program.

The most difficult piece of malware, called rootkits, are sometimes discovered by observation. Rootkits are malware that change how the operating system of the computer works. Having an antivirus program that can see a rootkit trying to alter the operating system will help alert the user to this very harmful form of malware.

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