Polymorphic Refers to a Malware’s Ability to Change

Polymorphic Refers to a Malware’s Ability to Change

When it comes to malicious programs, polymorphic refers to a malware’s ability to change itself and its identifiable features in order to avoid detection. Many types of malware can take a polymorphic form, including viruses, trojans, keyloggers, bots, and many more. This technique involves continuously changing characteristics such as file name or encryption keys, so they become unrecognizable by common detection tools.

Polymorphic refers to a malware’s ability to evade pattern-matching detection techniques, which many security solutions rely on, including antivirus programs. While it can change some of its characteristics, the primary purpose of the malware remains the same. A virus, for example, would continue to infect other devices even if its signature has changed. Worst of all, even if the new signature is detected and added into a security database, the polymorphic malware can simply change again and continue avoiding detection.

Polymorphic Malware Examples

It has been found that 97% of all malware infections today make use of polymorphic techniques. New waves of tactics have been coming in since the past decade. Popular examples of how polymorphic refers to a malware’s ability to infiltrate systems are:

Storm Worm Email

There was an infamous spam email initially sent in 2007. The subject line read, “230 dead as storm batters Europe.” This email became responsible for 8% of all malware infections in the world at one point. The email’s attachment installed a win32com service, along with a trojan, once opened, which essentially transformed the computer into a bot. The reason this malware was so difficult to detect is because the malware morphed every 30 minutes, which is part of the reason that polymorphic refers to a malware’s ability to morph.

CryptoWall Ransomware

Polymorphic refers to a malware’s ability to get into your computer and stay there undetected by changing its characteristics every now and then. What made the CryptoWall Ransomware even more dangerous and difficult to detect is that it essentially changed for every user it infected, making it unique for everyone.

Threat of Polymorphic Malware

Many malware today make use of a certain polymorphic capability that renders traditional antivirus solutions quite helpless. These programs, along with firewalls and IPS, used to be enough to secure one’s device, but this advancement now beats these precautions. Many prevention methods are failing to stop polymorphic attacks, which is part of the reason that polymorphic refers to a malware’s ability to be flexible when inside a system

Best Practices Against Polymorphic Malware

Polymorphic refers to a malware’s ability to change itself. In this case, in order to protect your devices and your company, you will need to use a layered approach to security that combines people, processes, and technology. Here are best practices you can use to protect against polymorphic malware:

Update your software

This is a straightforward way to keep yourself protected. Keep all programs and tools used in the company updated. Manufacturers usually release critical security updates to patch known vulnerabilities. Using outdated software only makes your systems more open to attacks.

Password maintenance

When it comes to passwords, each employee should be required to use strong ones that contain both upper- and lower-case characters, numbers, and symbols. They should also regularly change their passwords as well.

Report suspicious emails

If an employee receives a suspicious email, this should be reported at once. Do not open emails from unknown or suspicious senders, and never open their attachments.

Use behavior-based detection tools

Polymorphic refers to a malware’s ability to change some of its characteristics in order to avoid detection by conventional tools. But you can use behavior detection in order to pinpoint threats in real time. These tools rely on patterns rather than the software itself, so it is a good defense against polymorphic malware.

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Julia Sowells960 Posts

Julia Sowells has been a technology and security professional. For a decade of experience in technology, she has worked on dozens of large-scale enterprise security projects, and even writing technical articles and has worked as a technical editor for Rural Press Magazine. She now lives and works in New York, where she maintains her own consulting firm with her role as security consultant while continuing to write for Hacker Combat in her limited spare time.

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