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Detecting Complex Viruses

Peter Ferrie, Frédéric Perriot
December 2004

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There are many metrics by which to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of an antivirus product and the response organization that is backing it. Some of the commonly used metrics today include the antivirus company's response time to new threats and well as the availability of proactive detection. But are these metrics enough?

The purpose of this paper is to examine the difficulties of detecting complex viruses, including polymorphic, metamorphic and entry-point obscuring viruses. Whether or not an anti-virus technology can detect these viruses can be a useful metric to consider when evaluating AV products.

In this article, we will show how complex viruses can offer an entirely different threat to organizations. It is important to step into the world of complex viruses by defining what a metamorphic, polymorphic, and entry-point obscuring virus is, understand when it is considered a real threat, and then see some real-life examples of complex viruses that have been discovered. This will lead into a discussion on the limitations of current anti-virus engine technology, and then finally, we will try to gauge the importance of detecting these complex viruses accurately, and in a timely fashion.

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