Antivirus software is designed to prevent computer infections by detecting malicious software, commonly called malware, on your computer and, when appropriate, removing the malware and disinfecting the computer. Malware, also referred to as samples in this book, can be classified into various kinds, namely, Trojans, viruses (infectors), rootkits, droppers, worms, and so on.
This chapter covers what antivirus (AV) software is and how it works. It offers a brief history of AV software and a short analysis of how it evolved over time.
Antivirus software is special security software that aims to give better protection than that offered by the underlying operating system (such as Windows or Mac OS X). In most cases, it is used as a preventive solution. However, when that fails, the AV software is used to disinfect the infected programs or to completely clean malicious software from the operating system.
AV software uses various techniques to identify malicious software, which often self-protects and hides deep in an operating system. Advanced malware may use undocumented operating system functionality and obscure techniques in order to persist and avoid being detected. Because of the large attack surface these days, AV software is designed to deal with all kinds of malicious payloads coming from both trusted and untrusted sources. Some malicious inputs that AV software tries to protect an operating system from, ...