In Depth: Will we ever be able to rid the world of computer viruses?

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In the start, when the majority of the web was still rolling green areas, there was no need for antivirus software. Early internet users might exchange files with any individual without danger of infection – and they did, en masse, on messageboards and servers across the early internet. Those were carefree days.

But in the early 80s, similar to in the real life, everything altered. A program called ‘Elk Cloner’ was the very first virus to appear in the wild. It was more of an useful joke than anything else, merely showing a short poem if the videogame it was concealed within was played more than fifty times, but it gave others more malicious ideas.

Evil elks

Early viruses spread over physical vectors like floppies and zip disks, however as the web attached more and more computer systems, it quickly took control of as the primary methods of infection. Today, viruses cause billions of dollars worth of financial damage every year with information loss, systems failure, resource waste and maintenance costs.

Virus developers and security analysts are battling a ruthless arms race over each brand-new vulnerability discovered, while consumers suffer under the weight of puffed up anti-viruses software application that frequently does even more damage than great. To this day, no antivirus software can catch all malware.

But can we reverse the clock? Can we go back to those halcyon days when you could let your moms and dads play for hours without supervision with an unpatched variation of Internet Traveler?

Breaking the stalemate

An Israeli startup called CyActive thinks it’s a trump card that can finally wipe trojan horse off the face of the planet permanently. ‘We have developed an unprecedented ability to automatically anticipate the future of malware development, based upon bio-inspired algorithms and a deep understanding of the black-hats’ attack-launching procedure,’ explains Danny Lev, primary advertising officer at the business.

CEO Liran Tancman, who invested a years in Israel’s intelligence corps and was head of its cyber strategy unit prior to founding CyActive in 2013, details the issues with our contemporary approach to fighting viruses. ‘If and when a threat is exposed, it’s evaluated and a counter-solution is created,’ he claims. ‘Response times differ from weeks to years. Even if a solution is provided, enemies can easily modify the initial code, avert the upgraded security measures, and when again a new risk is born.’

Cyactive

This is a problem largely because it’s so inefficient, he claims. ‘Attackers keep adapting to the developing defences, in spite of the significant efforts put in by cyber protectors in both business and the cyber security solution vendor neighborhood. The scary capability of cyber-criminals, cyber terrorists and rogue countries to circumvent protective systems time and time again should be addressed to fundamentally alter this battle ground.’

Lev added: ‘The reactive paradigm creates an uneven relationship, where hackers have the unfair benefit: ‘reusing’ malware for re-use is quick and expense effective, while combating malware is time-consuming and costly. The mind-blowing truth is that for every dollar invested by black-hat hackers, hundreds of dollars are invested by the IT security market. This financial problem is the springboard from which cyber-crime, cyber-terrorism and cyber-warfare are launched.’

Predictive analysis

CyActive’s method to fixing this problem includes anticipating ahead of time exactly how virus creators could differ their malware, blocking prospective attacks before they’re created. ‘CyActive’s algorithms predict hundreds of countless ways in which hackers might avert existing security measures,’ states Lev.

‘Based on this foreknowledge, CyActive is the first to offer proactive detection of future malware before it’s ever seen the light of day.’ That technique has actually won it moneying from an Israeli cyber-security incubator.

However, despite the start-up’s marvelous claims of ‘exceptional protection’ for its clients, Lev decreased to information exactly what elements of biology inspired the ‘bio-inspired’ algorithms. When asked exactly what’s stopping virus creators adjusting their software to outsmart CyActive’s algorithm, Lev claimed: ‘We continuously adapt the detectors, seeing to it we remain one step ahead.’ To us, that sounds suspiciously like we are back to square one of measures and countermeasures.

Come at me, Bromium

Another start-up working on the very same trouble is Bromium, which has raised $75 million since it was started in 2010. Its approach is completely various – it uses hundreds of mini virtual equipments that catch every web page, e-mail and instant message that show up and separate them from each various other. If something that looks transmittable shows up, it’s kept quarantined up until an administrator can examine it and dispose of it.

Bromium

It works on Intel-based hardware, Windows 7 64-bit and 32-bit, Android, and Apple’s OS X, safeguarding against internet, email, USB, and instant messaging attacks. It doesn’t yet operate iOS devices, due to Apple’s fondness for total control over its software. It can be baked deep into a gadget’s hardware, and runs invisibly to the user.

Security analyst Simon Wardley composed in May 2013 that he was a huge fan of Bromium’s technique. ‘I made use of to work in the security industry and I can gladly state that a piece of it’s based upon snake oil and fear. The general principle of developing a safe but functionally helpful system is based upon fixing a difficult trouble and with excellent commercial reasons,’ he said.

‘Exactly what Bromium has actually neatly done isn’t try to resolve the impossible (avoiding you from being assaulted) however instead limited any damage to as small and as temporary an area as possible. The worry is gone. Simply because one e-mail has actually been compromised, doesn’t affect all the various other emails or the other applications and environments on my device. It’s all separated and to obtain rid of the trouble I just close that e-mail.’

Sandboxing the future

So while it’s most likely that we will never ever have the ability to rid the world of malware and computer viruses, it may not matter. By putting everything we do on our computer systems into a little box that cannot connect with anything vital, we can make viruses essentially pointless by preventing them from doing any damage.

On the various other hand, this approach suggests every web page, email and instant message you receive can be seen and assessed by your network administrator – a deep packet examination nightmare for anyone who cares about their personal privacy.

On that, perhaps Benjamin Franklin claimed it finest. ‘They who’d give up crucial liberty, to acquire a little short-lived security, are entitled to neither liberty nor safety.’